Press Release

Navy Pilot's Medical Mystery Solved by Three Stanford Experts

July 08, 2014

Before he came to Stanford Hospital for care, U.S. Navy Cmdr. Robert Buchanan endured six years of painful symptoms that kept him grounded from flight.

Buchanan was flying back to an aircraft carrier in the Middle East when a sudden surges of decompression left him unconscious while his plane dropped thousands of feet.

Buchanan managed to land his aircraft, but not without help—and then the medical mystery began.

The extra air traveling Buchanan's body meant something was very wrong. Doctors looked at one of his tearducts as a possible conduit.

Air escaping throughout the body can kill a person.

-Ed Damrose, MD

Top sinus specialist Jayakar Nayak and ophthalmic surgeon Andrea Kossler examine Buchanan’s eye and sinus.

Dr. Nayak told me it looked as if a bomb had gone off in my sinuses.

-U.S. Navy Cmdr. Robert Buchanan

Many of the procedures that we ultimately performed did not have formal names and had not been previously performed, so we had to be creative about extending principles of surgery and tissue reconstruction to meet this patient’s most unusual predicament.

-Jayakar V. Nayak, MD, PhD

Top sinus specialist Jayakar Nayak, ophthalmic surgeon Andrea Kossler and laryngology chief Ed Damrose collaborated with other Stanford specialists to repair, finally, Buchanan’s decompression injuries.