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Misdiagnosed brain tumor could have cost man his life

Photo of Dimas Martinez, who is free of seizures and working, following a surgical procedure performed by UTHealth’s Yoshua Esquenazi, MD. (Photo by Rob Cahill/UTHealth)
Dimas Martinez is free of seizures and working following a surgical procedure performed by UTHealth’s Yoshua Esquenazi, MD. (Photo by Rob Cahill/UTHealth)
Photo of Dimas Martinez's brain tumor. (Photo provided by UTHealth)
Dimas Martinez had a brain tumor that was almost two inches in size. (Photo provided by UTHealth)

For five years, Dimas Martinez battled debilitating, out-of-the-blue seizures, which doctors had diagnosed as the result of a parasitic infection. The doctors and multiple rounds of medications to treat the infections came and went. But the seizures remained.

“It got to the point where he was having multiple seizures and losing the use of the left side of his body,” said Karla Martinez, whose husband was unable to work.

Then Martinez met Yoshua Esquenazi, MD, a neurosurgeon who specializes in brain tumors at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). Martinez had been referred by Jose Diaz, MD, a neurologist with Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center.

“Mr. Martinez actually had a seizure in my office,” said Esquenazi, assistant professor and director of surgical neuro-oncology in the Vivian L. Smith Department of Neurosurgery at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. “He didn’t have a parasitic infection but rather a cancerous tumor of the brain involving the areas that control movement that needed to be removed.”

Seizures are typically associated with epilepsy but are common in patients with brain tumors, too. Defined as an unexpected, unrestrained electrical disruption in the brain, seizures can trigger abrupt changes in behavior, movements, or feelings. They can last from seconds to minutes.

In the United States, an estimated 700,000 people are living with a primary brain tumor, and over 86,000 more are expected to be diagnosed this year, reports the National Brain Tumor Society.

During a surgical procedure at Memorial Hermann-TMC in December, Esquenazi removed a portion of Martinez’s skull, and excised a large 5-centimeter tumor located around the areas in the frontal lobe of the brain that control movement.  

The tumor was a low-grade glioma and Martinez is being closely followed by a multidisciplinary team of doctors from UTHealth to make sure it does not return. Since the surgery 10 months ago, he has not had another seizure.

“During surgery we utilized mapping and monitoring techniques to identify which areas are critical for movement, allowing us to remove the tumor completely and safely without causing any deficit,” Esquenazi said.

“He saved my husband’s life,” Karla Martinez said. “He has recovered the use of his left side and he no longer has any seizures. He’s back cutting the grass, painting, and climbing ladders.”

“God put Dr. Esquenazi in my husband’s path at the right time,” Karla Martinez said.

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