Florida Pilot Travels to Arizona for Brain Surgery

photo of barrow patient justin poirot who was treated for a chiari malformation
Barrow Patient Justin Poirot

Neurosurgeons at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix have successfully treated a rare brain malformation from a 36-year-old police helicopter pilot from Central Florida, eliminating his risk of vision loss and sparing him his pilot’s license. Justin Poirot, who was told by doctors in Florida that his brain condition was too risky to treat, traveled to Phoenix in March to undergo surgery at Barrow. After successful treatment, Poirot has returned to flying helicopters for the Gainesville Police Department.

Poirot suffered a rare condition in which his brain settled too low in his skull causing a portion of his brain to enter the spinal canal. Without surgery, Poirot risked a series of medical complications including loss of vision and coordination which could prohibit him from continuing his passion of flying.

“I was scared I’d lose my job and never fly again if I didn’t find a hospital that would operate on me,” says Poirot. “I wasn’t sure how I was going to support my family.”

Born with the condition called a chiari malformation, Poirot underwent surgery at the age of 15 to have the malformation treated. But, in January, after experiencing blurred vision while attempting to land his helicopter, Poirot learned that scar tissue had grown where the chiari malformation was once located and was compressing the flow of cerebrospinal fluid in his skull and spinal canal.

photo of phoenix neurosurgeon Andrew Little
Barrow Neurosurgeon Dr. Andrew Little

Poirot sought the help and expertise of Andrew Little, MD, neurosurgeon at Barrow who performed the nearly five hour operation to remove the cluster of scar tissue. Within three months, Poirot was back to work. Barrow, which is located at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, is world renowned in the treatment of brain and spine disorders.

“I’m thrilled to have been able to help Justin,” says Dr. Little. “Chiari malformation is an uncommon brain abnormality and it’s rare for scar tissue to cause debilitating symptoms. “I’m glad Justin didn’t give up hope and learned he could be successfully treated at Barrow.”

Poirot is thankful that his tale can be counted among the chiari malformation success stories.

“It’s amazing how well I feel,” says Poirot. “Dr. Little performed magic and I’m extremely grateful for his expertise. I can continue my passion of flying and I no longer have to worry about how to support my wife and young son.”