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Press release
Tuesday 12 July 2022

Teenager diagnosed with brain tumour after eye test has sight saved by surgeons at University Hospital Southampton

A teenager who was diagnosed with a rare brain tumour following a routine eye test has had his sight saved by a team of top surgeons at University Hospital Southampton (UHS).

Budding photographer Milo Euling,16, underwent two major operations to remove the tumour which was pressing on his optic nerves.

His problems began in March 2020 when he started suffering from crippling headaches, but Milo put it down to the impact of home schooling during the first COVID-19 lockdown.

Following a visit to his GP, he was diagnosed with migraines and prescribed a nasal spray, however the headaches became more frequent and he noticed a change in his sight when he returned to the classroom in September 2021.

It was a routine eye test during half term which revealed that his optic nerves at the back of his eyes were swollen and squashed. Milo was sent immediately to the emergency eye unit at UHS, before being referred to the neurology department.

Further tests, including MRI scan, identified a large craniopharyngioma – a rare type of non-cancerous brain tumour that doctors believed had been growing since birth.

Apart from putting pressure on the optic nerves, the cystic part of the tumour had blocked the normal brain fluid circulation, leading to very high pressure inside Milo’s head.

The decision was made to perform emergency surgery to try to save Milo’s sight and the first of his two operations happened in November last year.

The surgical team, led by Mr Aabir Chakraborty, a consultant neurosurgeon at UHS, performed a four-hour operation through the top of Milo’s head, successfully removing the upper half of the tumour.

Milo remained in hospital for two weeks before being sent home to continue his recovery.

The teenager, who was a pupil at The Westgate School, Winchester, at the time, needed to have a second operation to remove the remainder of the tumour before it started to grow again – this time through his nose.

The five-hour operation, in April 2022, was carried out by Mr Nijaguna Mathad, consultant skull base neurosurgeon at UHS. Mr Mathad is an expert in this specialist technique known as endoscopic endonasal surgery.

This type of surgery was pioneered in America and introduced in Southampton, one of the first places in the UK to offer the procedure, by Mr Mathad 18 years ago.

Mr Mathad said: “Craniopharyngioma tumours, although benign, are very dangerous due to their tendency to recur and where they are positioned in the brain – they tend to stick to the brain, blood vessels and nerves and can be incredibly tricky to treat.

“If left untreated they can cause a range of problems, from complete loss of sight to hypothalamic syndrome, which can cause fatigue, weakness, poor appetite and weight loss and can lead to hormone and nutrition problems.

“There were two options available for Milo – a craniotomy, which involves removing part of the skull to reach the tumour, or endoscopic endonasal surgery, which involves removing the tumour through the nose.

“Although both are complex surgical procedures, a craniotomy has more potential risks due to working in such close proximity to the tiny blood vessels supplying brain, so it was agreed that we would perform the second surgery through his nose.”

Mr Mathad added: “It was important to try and take as much as the tumour as possible to prevent further complications for Milo.

“The operation went better than expected and we are hoping that the follow up scans will show complete removal of the tumour.

“Milo is just the greatest boy. He really understood everything and was very interested in learning as much as he could about his condition, including all of the risks involved in his operations.

“He is very courageous and his willingness to get better has certainly helped his recovery. Myself and the whole team involved in his care are very happy with the outcome.”

After surgery, Milo, who lives in Winchester with his family, was moved to ward G2 at Southampton Children’s Hospital where he spent five weeks in recovery.

During this time, he took part in a competition to design a Hampshire Hare for the Murray Parish Trust event currently taking place across Winchester and Southampton which sees large hare models placed around the cities.

His Spider-Man themed design was chosen and Milo’s hare can now be found in the Marlands Shopping Centre in Southampton.

Milo said: “Spider-Man is one of the top superheroes for children, so it made sense to use him to represent Southampton Children’s Hospital, alongside the NHS colours from the pandemic.

“This was in recognition of all the fantastic staff here in Southampton, and right across the NHS, who do such amazing work every day – they are all superheroes to me and I can’t thank them enough for what they have done for me.”

Mum Sally added: “Milo will be heading to college soon to study photography, so the idea of losing his sight was devastating for so many reasons. He is really creative so jumped at the opportunity to take part in the Hampshire Hares competition.

“We really can’t thank Mr Mathad and Mr Chakraborty enough, in fact every single person who has been involved in his care including the amazing staff on G2.

“We are forever grateful for everything they have done for Milo and our family.”

Milo returned home in June 2022 and, although missing his GCSE exams, was able to attend his school prom at Oakley Hall, Basingstoke, earlier this month.