Falcon Quarterback Soars after Unique HIFU Procedure

There are lots of reasons why Payton Stokes was destined to play football. He’s named after Walter Payton, a Pro Football Hall of Fame running back. His family loves football. His older brother played, paving the way. Yet the real driver is his true love for the game. After nearly losing his ability to play during his senior year, he’s soaring higher than ever. See Payton in action here:

Payton is a quarterback and captain for the Saratoga High School Falcons. Early in his junior season, he started experiencing pain in his thigh after practice. By the end of the season, the pain was fairly consistent, waking him up at night. Doctors at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford discovered a small, noncancerous tumor called an osteoid osteoma deep in his pelvis.

“No one knows what causes osteoid osteomas. They are spontaneous tumors that are benign but highly symptomatic,” says Dr. Robert Steffner, a pediatric orthopedic oncologist with Packard Children’s Hospital.

The hospital’s multidisciplinary team of experts all agreed that HIFU, or high intensity focused ultrasound, was the right treatment for Payton. As pioneers and early adopters of HIFU in the United States, they had seen it work well with similar benign tumors.

 “HIFU was by far and away the best option for removing Payton’s tumor,” Dr. Steffner says. “It saved him a sizable operation that would have required removing bone to get to the lesion and a surgical approach in proximity to important arteries, veins, and nerves.”

HIFU’s list of benefits is long: It is noninvasive and nonsurgical, carries little risk, delivers zero ionizing radiation, requires no hospital stay, and has a quick recovery time.  

“We have the advantage of offering a unique resource that allows athletes like Payton to return quickly to their sport,” Dr. Steffner says. “Payton is a very good football player, and surgery would have jeopardized his senior season.”

Using a high-energy ultrasound transducer, Dr. Pejman Ghanouni, a radiologist with Stanford University Medical Center, focused sound waves on Payton’s tumor, literally burning it up. It took eight hours to destroy the tumor tissue and to ensure that neighboring tissue was not damaged. Doctors monitored the procedure in real-time, using MRI images.

HIFU is getting recognized as a safe surgical alternative, with good results. Payton’s football record is proof of its success. He leads the Central Coast Section (CCS) in passing yards for the second season in a row. Best of all, he’s pain-free.

“Payton’s back to himself and loving football,” concludes Dianne Stokes, Payton’s mom. Read more about Payton’s story in the San Jose Mercury News.


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