World’s Tallest Man To Get Surgery at UVA to Stop Uncontrolled Growth
The world’s tallest man comes to Charlottesville today for an operation that doctors believe will stop his uncontrolled growth and prolong his life. Charles Fishburne has more in this Science Matters report.
The world’s tallest man is coming to one of the world’s finest facilities today, for an operation that could eventually save his life.
27-year old Sultan Kosen has a problem with his pituitary gland, and a sense of humor about it. He says he can see everyone from a long distance, and he's handy for hanging drapes and changing light bulbs.
It was a benign tumor in his pituitary gland that has caused uncontrolled growth and swept him from his small Turkish village to international fame as the tallest living man, according to Guinness World Records, at just over eight feet.
Sheehan: Previously, particularly in his native country and living in a more rural village, his life was a difficult one because of the challenges of his excessive growth and he has gotten some of the best care that has been able to be delivered with standard treatment paradigms.
But it has not been enough. Tomorrow, Dr. Jason Sheehan will perform gamma knife surgery on him in what could be his last, best hope.
Sheehan: His prognosis of achieving a cure after gamma knife radiation surgery is about 60 to 70 percent and then an additional 20 to 30 percent will go on to achieve improvement but not a complete cure, but slowing down the overproduction. That slowing down of the overproduction of the pituitary, excess pituitary hormone, may allow for medical management to control the rest.
Sultan has already had two conventional operations and extensive drug therapy, but gamma knife surgery is something altogether different.
Sheehan: Yes, it delivers radiation into the brain in a way that overcomes the resistance of tumors to radiation, like conventional radiation, yet it does so with the precision that is down to a quarter of a millimeter.
The University has been a world leader in gamma knife surgery.
Sheehan: The gamma knife itself, we've had one of the longest track records; we were the fifth center in the world to adopt this technology 22 years ago. Since then, we've upgraded the technology of the unit itself many times. We currently have the most state-of-the-art device, but I would say that it's not just the device, but the expertise of the team that has led to our ability to shape current treatment paradigms.
It uses radiation, not a scalpel, for precision surgery that reduces the length of hospital stays and rehabilitation, reduces damage to healthy brain tissues and surgical complications.
Sheehan: Not that we're gonna be able to reverse his height, we are not, but we are gonna hopefully be able to stop his growth from progressing any further.
It is ironic that the malady that has caused Sultan Kosen so much suffering has also brought him worldwide recognition and support that has made his medical journey possible.
Sheehan: He's really come to our attention because of the contact and support that he's gotten through the Guinness Book of World Records manager, Kelly Garrett. Kelly Garrett is fluent in a number of languages, Turkish being one of them, and she's become very close to Sultan; a friendship has developed and Kelly has gone to great lengths to make sure that Sultan has the best opportunity to lead a normal life. He'd like to return to Turkey and he has all of his family living in Turkey; he would like to resume a job that he has in Turkey, as well as to begin a family.
Dr. Jason Sheenan performs the operation tomorrow at UVA that he hopes will make that happen for the world’s tallest living man, Sultan Kosen.
Charles Fishburne, WCVE News