News

3.23.2017

UHealth Surgeons at Jackson Remove Two Brain Tumors from Pregnant Woman

A Florida mother is thanking University of Miami Health System doctors after they removed two benign brain tumors strangling her optic nerves and restored her sight – all while she was six months pregnant.

Maria Emilse Munoz Peña was in the middle of her pregnancy in December 2016 when she began losing her vision. As her sight worsened – she could no longer read, could barely make out shapes and colors, and couldn’t recognize faces – she went to an ophthalmologist, who immediately directed her to the emergency room at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, indicating it was a “life or death” situation.

An MRI revealed that Munoz Peña had an egg-sized, benign meningioma, a tumor that forms on the membranes that cover the brain, which was encapsulating both optic nerves and causing near blindness.

“I was very afraid, mostly because of my baby,” said Munoz Peña, who was treated by UHealth neurosurgeon Michael E. Ivan, M.D.

Ivan led a 12-hour surgery on December 29 at Jackson Memorial Hospital to remove the tumor. While operating, Ivan, assistant professor of neurosurgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, discovered a second benign brain tumor, which he also removed. Normally a slow-growing tumor, Ivan said that the hormones released from Munoz Peña’s pregnancy had caused the tumors to grow quickly.

Also of concern during surgery was the fetus. “We had to make sure the baby was in no distress,” he said.

An OB/GYN team from UHealth, led by obstetrician and gynecologist Unzila Nayeri, M.D., consulted during surgery, monitoring the well-being of the unborn baby. Their presence proved critical because later in the surgery, Munoz Peña began contracting. Nayeri administered medications during the halted surgery to stop the contractions. “We were able to avoid an emergency C-section,” she said. After the baby was stabilized, Ivan resumed surgery.

Munoz Peña has now regained her vision. More importantly, she said, doctors did not have to deliver her baby prematurely.

Three months later, Munoz Peña welcomed Santino Michar Peña, a 7-pound, 2-ounce boy, via C-section. “This is a miracle times two,” she said, “first me surviving brain surgery, and then my baby being born healthy.”

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