Skull Base Program staff expertly handles sinus-cavity procedures

By Lin Lofley

Dr. Batra and Ms. Phillips in exam room
Dr. Pete Batra is the go-to person in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery to remove tumors that form in the sinus cavity. Patient Gloria Phillips is a believer, having undergone a minimally invasive, five-hour procedure three years ago to remove a tumor that had grown to the size of a golf ball.

Tumors don't often form in the sinus cavity, but when they do, Dr. Pete Batra, Associate Professor of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, is the go-to person to remove them.

Dr. Batra, Co-Director of the Comprehensive Skull Base Program at UT Southwestern Medical Center, has done close to 300 removal procedures, and he's become an expert in what is still an evolving combination of surgery and technology. Dr. Batra trained at the Cleveland Clinic beginning 10 years ago, to specialize in what was then a fairly new field.

"We're still learning things about this procedure," he said. "We look at and formulate new ways to handle these tumors all the time."

In 2010, Gloria Phillips – an East Texas schoolteacher from Paris – underwent a minimally invasive, five-hour procedure to remove a tumor the size of a golf ball.

"I didn't know what was going on, but my friends kept asking me, 'Are you sick?' " said Ms. Phillips.

Dr. Batra said, "The tumor was toward the back of the nose, filling the sinuses, pushing on the brain, and destroying the bone around it. It was a benign type called chondromyxoid fibroma, and it's incredibly rare.

"The sheer mass of that kind of tumor creates pressure on the brain, and, if it's allowed to grow, it will compress the optic nerve, causing blindness."

The endoscopic procedure can't be done by the lead surgeon alone. Working at Zale Lipshy University Hospital, Dr. Batra had a team that included specialists in neurological surgery, neuro-ophthalmology, neuro-oncology, radiation oncology, interventional radiology, and pathology.

Procedures like Ms. Phillips' used to require a reconstructive surgeon as well, but endoscopy allows surgeons to access the tumor through the nasal cavity and remove it without disfiguring the face.

"I'm ever so grateful for this procedure," said Ms. Phillips, who teaches special education students in the Prairiland Independent School District.  "The healing took a long time, probably a year, and Dr. Batra was very specific about what I needed to do to recover."

As the tumor's gelatinous core is excised, its exterior collapses, requiring the surgeons to remove all the material piece by piece. Any material left in place could be the starting point for the tumor to return.

"Dr. Batra is really good, and as good as he is, everyone at Zale Lipshy is just as good," Ms. Phillips said "It was a great experience."

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