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Caring for your brain and spine | Infirmary Health's Neuroscience Center of Excellence

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Caring for your brain and spine | Infirmary Health's Neuroscience Center of Excellence

Neurological issues — those that primarily affect the brain and spinal cord — can be some of the most complex to treat. So, to make sure that patients facing these issues have local access to the highest level of diagnostic, medical, surgical and rehabilitation care available, Infirmary Health has developed a Neuroscience Center of Excellence.

The Neuroscience Center of Excellence, which includes our Spine Institute, Oncology Institute and Vascular Institute, is a multidisciplinary group of physicians who treat the whole person for everything from back pain to brain tumors,” said neurosurgeon Amber Gordon, M.D., who leads the new program at Infirmary Health. “This allows us to look at every aspect of care to make sure our patients have the best possible outcomes.”

“When the physical space is completed, the Center of Excellence will have neurosurgeons, neurologists, physical and rehabilitation medicine, pain management and speech therapy housed in the same 22,000-square-foot space on the fourth floor of the physician building at Mobile Infirmary, giving patients immediate access to the most complete neurologic care in the region,” said Ankit Gulati, M.D., physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist. “The collaboration between surgical, specialty and primary care teams, along with our ability to coordinate the patient journey through acute inpatient rehab or outpatient rehabilitation facilities, creates a spoke-and-wheel arrangement that assures our patients are well cared for."

Local care and technology ‘saves brain’
As part of ramping up, the Center of Excellence is bringing state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment technology online, including a brand-new biplane angiography suite, Brainlab Airo intraoperative CT scanner and ZEISS intraoperative fluorescence microscopy. “The biplane angiography suite is one of the largest in the Gulf Coast region and is providing by far the most complete brain imaging capabilities in the area,” said John Cox, M.D., who specializes in neurocritical care, endovascular surgery and neuroradiology. It provides real-time 3D renderings of blood vessels, allowing Dr. Cox and Roger Tart, M.D., interventional radiologist, to target issues such as blood clots with precision. “You can see your equipment navigate blood vessels when treating a condition such as a stroke or aneurysm,” said Dr. Cox. This capability is important for the Neuroscience Center of Excellence designation, and it is also a critical component of the hospital's designation as a Joint Commission Comprehensive Stroke Center.

Dr. Cox, a physician double board-certified in vascular surgery and neuro-intensive care, is an integral part of Infirmary Health’s future Comprehensive Stroke Center status. His helpful combination of education and skill set means that he is not only repairing vascular issues in the brain but also attracting the talent and acquiring equipment required for the Center’s new neurological intensive care unit. The new unit includes specialized neurological ICU nursing staff. “Along with our dedicated physicians, neuro-ICU nurses give us the ability to treat sensitive neurological conditions. Patients no longer have to be transferred to Birmingham or Pensacola, which is critical, because with something like a stroke, time matters. We’re saving brain and seeing better outcomes,” Dr. Cox said.

Smaller incisions for better outcomes
“The Brainlab Airo and ZEISS fluorescent microscope are also doing their part to optimize surgical outcomes, especially those that involve bony structures and tumors,” said Juan Ronderos, M.D., neurosurgeon. Using Brainlab, a patient is placed on a specialized gurney that allows the surgeon the ability to request a CT scan mid-procedure. These current images are then merged by computer with previous MRI or CT scan data to provide complete and current structural imaging. “For a spine surgery, we can be 100% confident we’re placing screws in the right place before leaving the operating room. And for both brain and spine surgeries, we can make much smaller incisions. The smaller the incision, the shorter the operating time, the better the patient outcome,” said Dr. Ronderos. ZEISS fluorescence comes into play during tumor removal. Prior to surgery, the patient drinks a dye that causes the tumor to appear bright pink under the microscope. “This gives us the ability to confirm we have removed the entire tumor,” Dr. Ronderos said. This new piece of state-of-the-art equipment is further elevating Infirmary Health’s already excellent cancer care.

A comprehensive plan for the journey
Dr. Gordon said that the Center of Excellence designation points to the fact that Infirmary Health is providing a higher standard of care. Patients are set on a pathway from diagnosis through rehabilitation, using the latest medical evidence, so they can reach their highest level of function. “The fact that Infirmary Health can say that we have all these domains really puts us at the forefront of neurological care,” said Dr. Gulati. He hopes that, in the very near future, this care continuum will include neuro-rehabilitation equipment that uses virtual reality and artificial intelligence to further enhance outcomes. “Co-locating rehabilitation with medical and surgical specialists is key to making the entire experience easier for patients, too,” said Dr. Gulati.
“Communication and care are improved. If Dr. Gordon performs a surgery, and the patient comes to me for rehabilitation, we talk about what that patient needs to eliminate unnecessary clinic visits. We get it done.”

This article originally was featured in our latest issue of BEST Magazine. BEST is a healthcare publication that provides our readers with the latest news and information from Infirmary Health. Read more here.