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Live tapeworm larva removed from Man’s brain

A tapeworm had been living inside a Napa natives' brain for some time and it was severe headache that brought him to the hospital

Luis Ortiz had been admitted to the hospital for almost three months bit if one asks him, he has no clue why. He could have lost his life after his close encounter with excrutiating headache.

He had intense headache and severe pain leading to fits of vomiting, following which he was rushed to a Napa Valley hospital. After thorough examination, it was discovered that there was tapeworm stuck deep inside his brain.

“It was still wiggling and moving around,” the 26-year-old Napa native said.

Doctors were not able to figure out since how long the worm had been living inside Ortiz, but most probably it wasn’t living inside the brain from the start but had moved here from another part. It finally found its way into a ventricle in the middle of his brain, said Janet Bruneau, an acute care nurse practitioner at Queen of the Valley Medical Center.

Mostly, infections caused by tapeworm are seen in developing countries, which include Latin America, Asia and Africa. This is because the hygiene and sanitation is not maintained in poorer countries according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Tapeworm infections when people have contact with food, water or other surfaces contaminated with their eggs. Tapeworm infection may also result in deaths and there may be cases where tapeworms form cysts spreading to the brain and spinal cord.

Delaying medical help may prove to be fatal. Ortiz was lucky to have reached the hospital on time. His problems only began three months ago when he had splitting headaches.

His memory of the day is fuzzy, but he recalled traveling from Sacramento to visit his family in Napa. Ortiz attends Sacramento State University, where he is studying science and psychology.

After arriving home, he met up with a friend and went skateboarding. That’s when his troubles began. He blacked out a few times and decided to head home for the evening.


Following a blackout his folks took him to the hospital where doctors discovered swelling in his brain following a CT scan X-ray exam. Doctors did a small hole in his head for drainage soon after and performed an X-ray exam of his brain. This showed a sphere-like cyst one-centimeter in diameter.

When Ortiz’s condition worsened, deteriorated, doctors had to opt for immediate removal of the worm done by an ace surgeon.

Dr. Soren Singel mapped Ortiz’s brain to reach the cyst. It was like trying to reach a dot from a large room on the other side of the wall using a straw. Singel was able to remove the whole cyst safely.

The whole incident left him with some degree of memory loss but rehabilitation helped him a great deal. “I am just happy to be alive,” Ortiz said. “I got lucky.”