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Jason's Story

Jun 6, 2019

Football player back in the game after successful surgery

Jason Carter Jr. is quite the athlete playing basketball and football for Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Detroit. So when he did not go to one of his football practices because of a severe headache, his dad Jason Carter Sr. was concerned something was up.

jason carter portraitA couple of physicals in previous years showed Jason Jr. had elevated blood pressure which doctors agreed was unusual for his age. The blood pressure fluctuated and didn’t cause any major problems. Testing was also inconclusive.

“I decided to take him to the hospital when his headaches became severe and his eyes were red,” says Mr. Carter.

When Jason presented to Children’s Hospital of Michigan at the Detroit Medical Center in the fall of 2013, he had severe hypertension, with blood pressures in the 200/110 range. He was hospitalized and required aggressive blood pressure medications to manage his hypertension. He was discharged home on blood pressure medications and followed closely in the nephrology clinic. More blood pressure medications were tried and additional testing in the outpatient setting was conducted. Ultimately, an MRI of the abdomen was ordered in an effort to pursue the underlying root cause.

This MRI revealed that Jason Jr. had a pheochromocytoma, a rare tumor in his adrenal gland. The condition causes the release of too much epinephrine and norepinephrine, hormones that control heart rate, metabolism, and blood pressure. Common symptoms include severe headache and high blood pressure which Jason Jr. experienced as well as other symptoms such as abdominal and chest pain, sweating and weight loss.

The definitive correction for this condition is surgery, but surgery for this type of tumor is anything but routine. Dangerously high blood pressures can occur at the time of the surgical removal of the tumor if the patient is not carefully managed prior to this operation.

After a one month medical stabilization period where Jason required weekly visits to the nephrology clinic with Rudolph Valentini, M.D., chief medical officer and nephrologist on staff at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, Jason was prepared to safely undergo surgery. Surgery to treat the condition was performed by Scott Langenburg, M.D. surgeon on staff at Children’s Hospital of Michigan at the Detroit Medical Center.

“His surgery was done through one small incision at the belly button. We believe this may be one of the first single port adrenalectomies done on a child for this condition. The small incision offers the patient benefits such as faster recovery, decreased postoperative scarring and better cosmetic effect,” says Dr. Langenburg.

The surgery was successful. Jason had been on up to four blood pressure medications at the same time with only fair control of his blood pressure prior to surgery; he is now off of all medications and his blood pressure is absolutely normal. Jason has not had any other issues with blood pressure and is doing great as a middle linebacker for his high school team.

“We are so thankful to all the staff at Children’s Hospital of Michigan including Dr. James Collins, his primary care physician, Dr. Rudolph Valentini, his nephrologist and Dr. Scott Langenburg who performed his surgery. We don’t even notice the scar from the surgery but the treatment worked great and Jason is now looking forward to continuing high school while already entertaining offers from various colleges to play football,” says Mr. Carter.

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