Neurointerventional radiologists see some of the most complex blood vessel conditions in the brain and spine. These physicians use minimally invasive procedures to treat intricate cases in the shortest amount of time—cases that until recently were considered untreatable. Advances in medicine and technology created the opportunity for this growing medical specialty: neurointerventional radiology.
Neurointerventional radiology is a minimally invasive approach that uses techniques to treat vascular diseases of the central nervous system.
“Emergency room physicians are often the first responders in treating neurological conditions,” says Andrew Ferrell, MD, assistant professor in neurointerventional and neurodiagnostic radiology within the Graduate School of Medicine and neurointerventional radiologist at The University of Tennessee Medical Center. “When a brain aneurysm or stroke occurs, our physicians want their patients to receive the most advanced care in the shortest amount of time possible. Every patient deserves the very best treatment by a dedicated team of physicians.”
This is why the medical center’s neurointerventional radiology service, a subspecialty of radiology, was developed in 2003 and collaborates with the Brain and Spine Institute. Neurointerventional radiologists work closely with board-certified neurologists, neuroanesthesiologists, neurosurgeons, vascular surgeons and a Comprehensive Stroke Center team to offer innovative, minimally invasive treatments for life-threatening conditions related to the brain and spinal cord.
“In the past, certain conditions that would have required open surgery, such as aneurysms, strokes, blood clots, neurovascular malformations, and tumors of the head, brain, neck and spine, can now be considered for minimally invasive treatment using an endovascular approach to reach the problem,” says Ferrell. Procedures of this kind are less invasive than traditional surgery. For patients, they result in shorter hospital stays, quicker recovery times, reduced pain and less risk of complications.
The University of Tennessee Medical Center’s Comprehensive Stroke Center offers the latest technology in the neurointerventional biplane suite, which is a state-of-the-art treatment environment, converting instantly from a neurointerventional radiology suite to a microsurgical suite for vascular brain surgery. To expedite treatment, the biplane suite is adjacent to the emergency department for easy access. Patient safety, always a top priority, is greatly enhanced by faster assessment and transition to treatment.
The suite’s biplane system provides the most advanced digital imaging capabilities. It is designed to offer ideal projection angles, patient access, and integrated software that speeds diagnosis with real-time evaluations and study comparisons. The system produces three-dimensional images of a patient’s head along two planes.
After diagnosis and treatment, patients may be admitted to the neurocritical care unit located at The University of Tennessee Medical Center. This highly specialized unit is staffed with an elite team of specially trained critical care nurses, respiratory therapists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and nursing assistants, all dedicated to helping patients toward recovery. The critical care team also includes social workers, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, nutritionists and clinical pharmacologists. Completing the team are patients and their families, who participate in discussions and decisions concerning goals, treatment options and plans of care.
At the only academic medical center in the region, patients receive 24-hour-a-day care from a Comprehensive Stroke Center team and are served by a dedicated group of specialty-trained neurologists, neurosurgeons and neurointensivists (specialists in neurocritical care). All these professionals work collaboratively with neurointerventional radiologists to provide many treatment options.
“Merging sophisticated technology with a unique collaboration of healthcare professionals among various neurospecialties allows us to give our patients the best chance of survival and fast recovery,” says Ferrell. All members of the medical center’s multidisciplinary teams are committed to patient safety and comfort—a crucial mission in high-quality care. This commitment is evidenced at a weekly neuro-vascular case conference that is held to review difficult cases and discuss options to ensure best patient outcomes.
Neurological disorders can be challenging and difficult. But genuine collaboration, like that at The University of Tennessee Medical Center, strengthens treatment and improves patients’ chances of a full recovery.