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Brain Surgery Eases Compulsive Eating in 10-Year-Old Girl

Benign tumor was causing premature puberty and obesity linked to overeating, doctors say

TUESDAY, April 9 (HealthDay News) -- Removal of a rare type of benign brain tumor helped bring a young girl's compulsive eating under control, doctors report.

The 10-year-old had what's known as a hypothalamic hamartoma -- a tumor in or around the brain's hypothalamus. One of the symptoms of this type of tumor is extremely early (precocious) puberty, as well as compulsive eating and excessive weight gain.

As reported online April 9 in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics, by age 10 the girl already weighed 227 pounds and was gaining an average of five more pounds each month. Medication and counseling did nothing to curb her overeating.

Despite the fact that there was no record of it having been done before, neurosurgeons at the University of Texas-Houston and Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston decided to remove the girl's hypothalamic hamartoma in an effort to curb her overeating. The doctors called it a "last-ditch effort."

"The decision to proceed with this surgery was undertaken with great thought and after numerous discussions with the patient's family," Dr. David Sandberg, one of the study authors, said in a journal news release. "We were cautious about proceeding with a major operation in which the probability of success was completely unknown."

However, the surgery went well, the girl's appetite immediately lessened and she began eating smaller portions. Eighteen months after the surgery, her weight was still the same as it was before the operation. But it no longer increased, which was the goal of the surgery.

"The patient, her family, and treating physicians were all delighted with the outcome," Sandberg said.

More information

You can find out more about this type of brain tumor at Hope for Hypothalamic Hamartomas.


SOURCE: Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics, news release, April 9, 2013

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