Case Study: Alyssa Cook

Dysembryoplastic Neuroepithelial Tumor (DNET)

Diagnosis: dysembryoplastic neuroepithelial tumor
Imaging: MEG
Treatment: surgery
Result: seizure-free since surgery; speech function is normal


When an MRI revealed that their 5-year-old daughter, Alyssa, had a dysembryoplastic neuroepithelial tumor (DNET) in an area of the brain close to her speech center, her parents, Brady and Nancy Cook of Houston, Texas, went looking for a facility that could remove the tumor while preserving her ability to speak.

After evaluations at seven neurology facilities, it was Le Bonheur’s technology and talent that led them to Memphis for Alyssa’s surgery.

That talent started with Frederick Boop, co-director of the Neuroscience Institute and chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

“Dr. Boop was extremely confident that he could perform the surgery,” said Brady, “Not every hospital was going to use the MEG to map brain function, and Dr. Boop was unequivocal that they could find her Broca’s area with brain mapping and come up with a surgical plan to remove the tumor.”

The MEG was used in two ways to map Alyssa’s brain: first, to localize the sources of her seizures resulting from the tumor, and then second to map her language centers. Results showed that she had bilateral representation for language. Her tumor was in the left hemisphere of the brain, but her speech areas still allowed for surgery within a one-centimeter margin.

Alyssa was able to walk herself out of the hospital a few days after surgery. Alyssa’s speech was unaffected; she stayed on medicine for 18 months and has been seizure free since her surgery.

“Our experience at Le Bonheur was very relational,” said Nancy. “The staff and doctors took the time to get to know Alyssa and our whole family. They have a holistic approach that mattered to us as a family.” Alyssa now makes straight A’s in school without a single seizure.


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