Disabled oil field worker and Gamma Knife patient
West Branch, Michigan
"I went through three years of pain trying to find out what was wrong, but Dr. Dardas knew immediately what to do. I just wish I had known him three years earlier."
Gamma Knife Brings Much-Needed Relief from Facial Pain
After three years of intense facial pain, Phil Biddinger found relief, thanks to his doctors at MidMichigan Medical Center–Midland and the use of Gamma Knife® technology.
Phil, who is 63, was born in Midland and grew up in Michigan. In the 1980s, he moved south for a job in the oil fields on the Gulf of Mexico. Three years ago, while living in New Orleans, Phil started to experience sharp pain in his lower jaw. At first Phil thought the pain was related to dental problems.
“I went to dentists and they thought I needed a root canal, so I had a root canal but I still had pain,” he said.
The pain spread from his lower jaw to his upper jaw and eventually included his eye socket area.
“It was like someone took jumper cables and sent an electrical shock through me. That’s exactly what the pain was like in each area at separate times,” Phil said. “It got so bad at times that I couldn’t even move my tongue. I lost 50 pounds.”
Phil and his wife, Ann, weathered Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005, but less than a year later, they returned to Michigan to be near family. Once settled in West Branch, Phil made an appointment with neurologist Gregory Dardas, M.D., at MidMichigan Medical Center–Midland to find out if his excruciating facial pain was caused by a nerve problem.
Dr. Dardas examined Phil and diagnosed him with trigeminal neuralgia, a condition that affects the cranial nerve and results in extreme, shooting pain in the face. Dr. Dardas referred Phil to his MidMichigan colleague, neurosurgeon Brian Copeland, M.D., who examined Phil and explained his options, one of them being Gamma Knife radiosurgery.
The Gamma Knife is an alternative to surgery that uses highly-targeted radiation to desensitize the troubled nerve – without cutting into the head or damaging other brain tissue.
Phil agreed to have the Gamma Knife procedure. Because he was traveling from West Branch, MidMichigan arranged for him to stay in a Midland motel the night before the procedure and for a driver to take him from the motel to the hospital for his 7 a.m. appointment. Once at the hospital, he was hooked up to an IV drip that contained medicine to relax him. Then a metal frame was attached to his head with four small pins to help hold his head perfectly still during the upcoming procedures. Phil said this did not hurt and the imprints that it left on his skin later healed.
Next, Phil underwent a computed tomography (CT) scan and a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. Together, these scans provide images used in treatment planning to precisely shape the Gamma Knife's beams to the target area.
Phil’s head was placed into position so that his neurosurgeon had the best angle to use the Gamma Knife on the troubled nerve.
“You cannot move, but that was the most uncomfortable part of the whole thing. I had a stiff neck afterward from being in position and having to be so still,” Phil said.
When the Gamma Knife treatment was finished, the frame was removed from Phil's head, he ate lunch and was allowed to leave. The whole process took about five hours.
Phil’s Gamma Knife procedure was in September 2008 and his pain has been greatly lessened. Since then, MidMichigan has contacted Phil three times for updates on his health.
“They’ve done a real good job of following up,” Phil said.
Is Gamma Knife Right for You?
Let us review your case. Contact our Gamma Knife Coordinator for more information, or to arrange for a no-obligation review of your records and films by one of our neurosurgeons.
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