Skull Base Care Program
The University of Kansas Health System offers the region’s leading experts in skull base care. Our comprehensive skull base surgery and care program involves the seamless collaboration of doctors in multiple specialties. These include leaders with focused expertise and experience in neurosurgery, ear, nose and throat care, medical and radiation oncology, imaging, eye care and more. Our skull base care team is the largest, most experienced team of its kind within 500 miles.
It’s important to choose doctors who specialize in skull base care, frequently assessing treatment together as a team to help you achieve the best possible outcome. While some surgeons provide tumor care once in a lifetime, ours specialize in skull base care, assessing specific tumor types in people from across the Midwest. This focus builds the experience you need and deserve. In addition, our skull base doctors meet regularly as a tumor board – a conference of specialists working together to review complex cases and collaborate to determine the best treatment plans.
Our program also offers a dedicated nurse navigator, who will guide you as you walk through the treatment process, from the beginning. The nurse navigator will ensure:
- You are scheduled with the appropriate care team
- All your necessary testing and medical information is available to your care team
- You receive the education and emotional support you need
The skull base is a complex area of the body. It supports the brain, including the frontal and temporal lobes as well as the brain stem and cerebellum. Surgeries in this area – such as to remove tumors – can be complicated and delicate. Our program is the first in the region to offer proton therapy when it is the best option for treatment. The Proton Therapy Center opened in May 2022, and patients with many types of cancer have received treatment there.
Conditions we treat
Identifying skull base growths can be challenging, as these tumors can cause common symptoms – like vision problems, dizziness or hearing loss – often attributed to other medical conditions, or even no symptoms at all. Typically, skull base tumors are discovered when people seek medical care for symptoms like these and imaging reveals the skull base growth.
Our team evaluates, diagnoses and treats cancerous and noncancerous skull base growths. These include tumors that grow at the base of the brain or skull as well as those that occur on the upper vertebrae of the spine.
Our team treats conditions including:
- Chondrosarcoma/skull base chordoma
- Cerebrospinal fluid leak
- Epidermoid tumor
- Sellar/suprasellar pathologies including:
- Pituitary tumors
- Rathke’s cleft cyst
- Sinonasal tumors including:
- Juvenile nasopharyngeal angiofibroma
- Sinonasal undifferentiated carcinoma
- Squamous cell carcinoma
- Skull base meningiomas
- Vestibular schwannoma (acoustic neuroma)
We can provide initial consultations and evaluations by telehealth. Learn more about the care you can receive from the comfort of home.
Skull base treatments
We use the latest tools and technologies to provide care that helps you reach the best outcome. We focus on performing effective surgeries while preserving function and optimizing quality of life.
We provide nationally recognized care, ensuring people in our city, state and region can receive state-of-the-art treatment close to home. More than a dozen surgeons treat rare and common conditions – performing hundreds of skull base surgeries each year – using the most advanced tools and techniques in the most sophisticated surgical suites in the nation. It’s why we are the leading Midwest referral destination for skull base care.
As part of our region's premier academic medical center, we conduct research and lead and participate in clinical trials to advance medical science in skull base care. We provide our patients with access to treatment options not available elsewhere in our region.
Advanced skull base care techniques and technologies help us reduce risk and restore your health. They include:
Our doctors are pioneers in advanced techniques to treat tumors in the skull base. In minimally invasive transnasal endoscopic surgery, doctors use a tiny lighted camera to access the narrow areas of the skull base, and the camera gives them detailed views during the surgery. A team of doctors works together to remove skull base tumors – whether cancerous or noncancerous – through the nose. The experience of neurosurgeons, ear, nose and throat specialists, neuro-ophthalmologists, neuroradiologists and neuro-oncologists may all combine to give you the best result.
The intraoperative MRI technology allows care teams to capture images of the brain during surgery. Surgeons use the real-time images to evaluate surgical process and refine the surgical plan. With the MRI within the operating suite, surgeons obtain the images they need without the risk of moving a patient during anesthesia. They can assess surgical progress and make any necessary changes, often omitting a need for a second surgery once common to address tumor cells left behind.
The University of Kansas Cancer Center’s Proton Therapy Center opened in May 2022. This highly specialized form of radiation treatment uses a precise beam of protons – instead of X-rays – to attack cancerous tumor cells while sparing healthy tissue near the tumor.
This is an advanced, rare surgical technique that provides surgeons with a different and helpful angle for skull base surgeries. The semi-sitting position enables doctors highly trained in this method to complete a safer, faster surgery – sometimes in as little as 6 hours as compared to the traditional 12.
Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) is a noninvasive radiation therapy that uses many small radiation beams to precisely target brain tumors. Patients receive a high dose of radiation in a single treatment session. This can help preserve healthy tissue while providing tumor control. In some cases, the radiation dose may be divided into smaller doses given over a few days. This is called fractionated stereotactic radiosurgery. Despite its name, SRS is not a surgical procedure. It requires no incisions or anesthesia. It may replace surgery in some cases where a tumor is difficult to remove surgically or the patient has had prior radiation to the brain. SRS is usually an outpatient treatment and is shorter than conventional radiation treatments. This reduces your time receiving treatment and allows you to get back to your normal routine sooner.
Advanced surgical technique returns husband, father to family
Mark Phillips: I'm going to be the Superman to my children, be the Superman to my wife, and do exactly what I'm supposed to do.
Voiceover: Mark Phillips is excited to get back to life soon. Mark has a rare non-cancer tumor called vestibular schwannoma.
Mark Phillips: I have a 10-year-old, an 11-year-old, a 13-year-old. I live a very active lifestyle. I work a 40-plus hour a week job. My wife and I enjoy hiking, fishing and all sorts of stuff.
Voiceover: First he must undergo a second procedure to remove the tumor, which is located on the main nerve leading from the inner ear to the brain. Another surgery, but this time he won't be taking it lying down. Dr. Paul Camarata with The University of Kansas Health System explains.
Dr. Paul Camarata: This is a particular procedure where the head is actually elevated with relation to the rest of the body. The patient is in what we call a slouch position or a semi-sitting position, so they're kind of like they're slouching in a lounge chair. Their head is up like this and flexed forward so that the spinal fluid and blood during the surgery are all taken away by gravity.
Voiceover: Dr. Camarata trained in Germany for this procedure and adds the slouch position as added benefits. It frees up a surgeon's hands, takes less time to get to the tumor, and that means less time the patient is asleep. In many cases, they can also remove much more of the tumor, preventing further complications.
Mark Phillips: They could put me upside down for all I care.
Dr. Paul Camarata: I walked in and he said, "Well, we're going in for round 2 here. I've been through this rodeo before." He's a good guy. Yeah.
Second opinions provide valuable information as you decide where to receive your care. They help ensure you receive an accurate diagnosis and the best possible treatment. It’s an important opportunity for you and your family to ask questions and learn more about the diagnosis and options for care.
We always encourage second opinions. If you would like one, call 913-588-1227 to schedule.
Vision loss sent Reggie Peoples to the health system. The collaborative skull base care team removed a tumor in a minimally invasive surgery and restored Reggie’s sight.
Find a doctor
Doctors at The University of Kansas Health System are care providers and researchers at the forefront of new medical discoveries. From primary care to complex conditions, we offer hundreds of specialists.
Leading research and clinical trials
As part of one of the nation's premier academic medical centers, our care providers are committed to research and scientific discovery through the University of Kansas Medical Center. We can often include our patients in potentially lifesaving clinical trials and treatment options not available anywhere else.