12-Year-Old Fairbanks, Alaska Boy Finally Breathes Easier

Dr. Matthew Kaufman of The Institute for Advanced Reconstruction Performs Phrenic Nerve Surgery

Oct 16, 2012, 11:20 ET from The Institute for Advanced Reconstruction

SHREWSBURY, N.J., Oct. 16, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Imagine a 12-year-old boy's greatest joy is to take deep breaths for the first time in nearly half his life. That's the case with Tristan Loitz, from Fairbanks, Alaska, who made the trip for groundbreaking phrenic nerve surgery with Dr. Matthew Kaufman of The Institute for Advanced Reconstruction in Shrewsbury, New Jersey.

For Kaufman, reconstructive plastic specialist and the only known surgeon to perform phrenic nerve surgery, Tristan represented roughly the 65th such surgery since undertaking this procedure in 2007.

The phrenic nerve controls function of the diaphragm muscle – the primary muscle involved in breathing. Tristan's phrenic nerve paralysis had caused the right side of his diaphragm to essentially be pushed up to the top of his chest, preventing the lung from expanding with inspiration of breath.

After four years of desperation at a variety of doctors as far from their home as Seattle, Tristan's family ultimately heard the same line that has become universal with Dr. Kaufman's phrenic nerve patients. "You're just going to have to live with it."

That wasn't good enough for Tristan's mom, Tracy Loitz, and his dad Roger.  In April 2012, Tracy went on the Internet and found Dr. Kaufman. In October, Tristan had his surgery.

Tristan awaits respiratory therapy, and an exercise program. As is customary in this surgery, the full result evolves over about a year's time, with healing of the phrenic nerve and strengthening of the diaphragm muscle.

"Emotionally, I felt broken-hearted not being able to run with my friends," he says. "Now, I feel great." Adds his father, "I look forward to watching him run without the blue-green tinge I'd see on his neck due to lack of oxygen."

When told during his post-surgical exam with Dr. Kaufman that the scar from his surgery would ultimately heal, Tristan responded tongue in cheek, "I don't want it to fade; it's manly."

Patients have come from around the U.S. and as far away as Australia to be operated on by Dr. Matthew Kaufman for phrenic nerve injuries. They have ranged in age from 11 to the early 70s with a success rate of 70% to 80%. To read more about phrenic nerve procedures with Dr. Matthew Kaufman, log onto http://www.advancedreconstruction.com/nerve-surgery-reconstruction/phrenic-nerve-injuries/

To read more of Tristan's story, log onto http://www.advancedreconstruction.com/?p=2370

SOURCE The Institute for Advanced Reconstruction