Doctors replace NYC kid’s jaw bone with leg section in amazing surgery


This lucky Brooklyn kid already has a leg up.

Local doctors recently performed rare surgery on 9-year-old Demetri Pristouris, using a section of the fibula bone in his lower right leg to replace part of his right jaw, where a benign tumor was threatening to disfigure him.

“I was very nervous when I had the surgery. I was scared. I feel much better now,” said Demetri of Dyker Heights.

The boy’s mom, Stacy Pristouris, said her son’s saga began when she noticed Demetri’s right jaw was swollen this past Thanksgiving.

What she thought was an allergic reaction to food was later confirmed to be a growing tumor.

Demetri ended up in an eight-hour surgery in February at the Cohen Children’s Medical Center at Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Hospital on Long Island.

One of Demetri’s surgeons, Dr. David Hirsch, said it is rare to replace a child’s jaw with bones from the leg because of a tumor.

It is rare to replace a child’s jaw with bones from the leg because of a tumor, doctors said.
Stacy Pristouris

“Kids rarely get this type of tumor,” said Hirsch, the chairman of oral and maxillofacial surgery at Northwell’s Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan.

“When we do see such a tumor, it is usually small. His was the largest one we’ve seen in children.”

Demetri’s mom said, “The tumor was the size of an egg when they removed it.

Pristouris riding a bike.
Demetri missed two months of school because of the health scare.
Stacy Pristouris
Demetri in the hospital.
Demetri’s right jaw began swelling this past Thanksgiving.
Stacy Pristouris

“I was told his jaw bone wasn’t there. A mass, a tumor was there,” she recalled.

“We were told they had to remove the tumor and had to rebuild Demetri’s jaw by taking a bone from his leg.”

Hirsch said his team was able to successfully fuse Demetri’s fibula bone with the rest of his jaw bone, with much of the damaged jaw bone removed.

Graphic showing Demetri's right jaw.
Demetri’s tumor was the size of an egg.
Stacy Pristouris

The boy still needs teeth replaced from his surgery — but he’s now swimming and playing other sports.

He missed about two months of school because of the health scare, but his relieved mom said Demetri was able to return to classes at the Classic Hellenic Charter School in the spring.

“Demetri healed really well,” his doctor said.

The surgeon said the recurrence rate for such a tumor is 1 percent with the dramatic jawbone removal and fibula replacement. The recurrence rate for less invasive surgery is 65 percent.

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