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Bone tumor treatment offers speedy recovery

April 10, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
A new alternative for people suffering from a rare painful bone tumor: Invasive surgery used to be the only option for patients, but now radiologists can zap away the tumors in just minutes.Seventeen-year-old drummer Avery Burton was a typical active teenager before he started to experience recurring hip and knee pain at night.

"I don't want to say I was scared, but it was a little frightening, just knowing I had a pain that wasn't going away, and I had no idea what it was," said Burton.

Avery Burton thought the pain was due to his active lifestyle, teaching karate and playing the drums.

But he soon found out the pain was from a rare bone tumor, called an "osteoid osteoma." Though benign, the tumors are known to cause excruciating pain.

"It can be debilitating pain, where they don't want to continue their daily activities," said Dr. Thomas Learch, musculoskeletal radiologist, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

After months of discomfort, Avery Burton turned to musculoskeletal radiologist Dr. Thomas Learch.

Wanting to avoid invasive surgery, Burton became the first patient at the S. Mark Taper Foundation Imaging Center to undergo radiofrequency ablation, a relatively new minimally invasive procedure.

Radiologists use a CT scan to locate the tumor, then insert a needle that transmits an electrical current and generates heat.

"We put the probe into the lesion and we then burn it at 90 degrees Centigrade for five minutes. That does it," said Dr. Learch.

Dr. Learch, who's performed the procedure more than a dozen times, says the benefits of radiofrequency ablation are many.

"Low cost, high rate of success. Minimal downtime for the patient. The next day they're resuming normal activities, and as well, no scar," said Dr. Learch.

And 17-year-old Burton? He's back at the drums, pain-free.

With traditional surgery Burton could have been in crutches for up to three months.

The radio-frequency ablation procedure allowed him to go back to school in two days without any crutches.

Some patients with osteoid osteomas treat the pain with anti-inflammatory medications. However, it is not a long-term solution.

 

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