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Sophisticated Technology, Highly Trained Staff Bring New Hope for Brain, Spinal Disorders

No surgery is minor when you are the patient. Neurosurgery can be especially stressful because it involves critical areas of the body — the brain, spinal cord and nervous system.

Patients who come to Methodist for neurosurgery can be assured that they will receive exceptional care before, during and after their procedure. They will benefit from cutting-edge technologies, as well as surgical and neurodiagnostics teams that include a highly trained and skilled neurosurgeon, technologists, nurses and others.

Brain Tumors

Tumors are classified as malignant, benign or metastatic. Malignant tumors are cancerous, while benign tumors are not. Metastatic tumors are those that have spread from their original location.

Malignant brain tumors tend to grow rapidly and invade normal tissue. Treatment usually is complex and involves several consulting doctors on Methodist’s medical staff: a neurosurgeon, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, neurodiagnostic specialists, the patient’s primary care doctor, and others. Treatment varies significantly depending on the size, location and type of tumor, as well as a patient’s age and other medical problems. The most widely used treatments are surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy.

Most benign tumors are not life-threatening, and they do not generally return after surgical removal. When the brain or spinal cord is involved, however, they may be quite serious.

Aneurysms & Vascular Malformations

Vascular neurosurgery involves the repair of damaged or abnormal blood vessels in the brain. Examples include aneurysms and vascular malformations.

An aneurysm is a protrusion in the wall of a blood vessel. Aneurysms may form in any artery, but most occur in the aorta – the body’s largest artery, which travels from the heart to the center of the chest and abdomen and eventually splits into two arteries. The seriousness of an aneurysm depends on its size and location, as well as the patient’s age and health. While small aneurysms often may be left alone, treatment should be considered for larger aneurysms because a rupture can quickly become life-threatening.

Head, Spinal Injuries

A traumatic brain injury is a blow to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain. It can occur when the head suddenly and violently hits an object, or when an object violently pierces the skull.

Symptoms range from mild to severe, depending on the extent of damage to the brain. Mild cases may result in a brief change in mental state or consciousness, while severe cases may result in extended periods of unconsciousness, coma, or even death.

Fifty years ago, spinal cord injuries were usually fatal because few treatments were available. We still cannot reverse the damage of a partial spinal cord injury, but advances in recently years have improved the recovery rate.

The symptoms of spinal cord injuries depend on the location and severity of the injury. Common causes are motor vehicle accidents, violence, falls, sports and diseases.

If you suspect someone has a back or neck injury:

  • Call 911
  • Keep the person still
  • Hold the head and neck still until emergency personnel arrive
  • Stop any bleeding, make the person comfortable, and perform other first aid.

Emergency personnel trained in treating people with traumatic head and neck injuries immobilize the spine before transporting the patient to Methodist Medical Center of Oak Ridge. An emergency room doctor may order x-rays, a CT scan, and an MRI, and in emergency situations, a neurosurgeon at Methodist may stabilize the spine to prevent additional pain and deformity.

Cervical Fusion

A number of patients with cervical spine disorders require surgery to relieve pain. Cervical, in this context, refers to an area in or around the neck. When people reach age 30, the gelatin-like centers of vertebrae in the spine begin to dry out and flattened, causing the vertebrae to lose their healthy resilience. With this degeneration, the vertebra move closer together and irritate the nerves. The result of is often a painful herniated cervical disk, also known as a ruptured or slipped disk.
The center of the disk bulges and presses on a nerve, resulting in neck or arm pain, or weakness in the arm. A neurosurgical procedure called cervical fusion is performed at Methodist to relieve the pressure, stabilize two or more vertebrae in the spine by locking or fusion them together, prevent vertebral motion, and relieve the pain.

Lumbar Fusion

Lumbar fusion surgery may help patients with degenerative disc disease, a weak or unstable spine, fractures or deformities such as scoliosis. A neurosurgeon replaces a damaged spinal disc with bone, which eventually heals in place.
This type of surgery has been performed for more than 40 years, but the techniques and technologies are constantly advancing. Only a few years ago, this type of surgery was major and painful, and almost half of the procedures failed. Today, minimally invasive lumbar fusion surgery results in less pain and better outcomes for patients.

Peripheral Nerve Surgery

Peripheral nerve surgery involves evaluating and surgically treating disorders that affect the body and its extremities. Not all peripheral nerve disorders require surgery, but several often do. They include:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Compression of the ulnar nerve at the elbow
  • Nerve tumors
  • Nerve injuries