Diagnosing and Treating Neurological and Spinal Disorders

Neurosurgery at Wellington Regional Medical Center involves the treatment of conditions involving the brain, skull, spine and nervous system. Physicians use nonsurgical and surgical treatments to help treat neurological and spinal disorders.

Physicians at the hospital can evaluate your condition and recommend treatment that could include rehabilitation, exercise or other therapies to relieve pain and increase function. If surgery is required, many procedures can be performed using minimally invasive techniques for shorter hospital stays and quicker recovery times.*

Neurosurgeons at Wellington Regional treat a wide range of conditions, including:

  • Brain and nervous system cancers
  • Brain hemorrhages and aneurysms
  • Brain injuries and trauma
  • Brain and spinal tumors
  • Neck pain and lower back pain
  • Spinal cord injuries and spine fractures
  • Epilepsy

If you need a referral to a physician at Wellington Regional Medical Center, call our free physician referral service at 561-798-9880.


Brain Tumors

Brain and spinal cord tumors are masses of abnormal cells that have grown in the brain or on the spinal cord. Although brain tumors rarely spread to other parts of the body, many can spread throughout the brain, often leading to death.

Even benign tumors can destroy and compress normal brain tissue, causing damage that is often disabling and sometimes fatal.

Brain Tumor Symptoms

Tumors in any part of the brain may cause the pressure inside the skull to rise, leading to:

  • Headache
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Balance problems
  • Personality or behavior changes
  • Seizures
  • Drowsiness or coma

The increased pressure can be caused by growth of the tumor itself, swelling in the brain or blockage of the flow of cerebrospinal fluid.

Headaches are a common symptom of a brain tumor, occurring in about half of patients. Of course, most headaches are not caused by tumors. Signs and symptoms of brain or spinal cord tumors may occur gradually and become worse over time, or they can happen suddenly, such as a seizure.

Symptoms in Other Parts of the Central Nervous System

Tumors in other parts of the central nervous system can cause different symptoms, but other diseases can cause these symptoms. They do not always mean a brain tumor is present. Brain and spinal cord tumors often cause problems with the specific functions of the region in which they develop, such as:

  • Tumors in the outer part of the brain that control movement or sensation may cause weakness or numbness of part of the body.
  • Tumors in or near the parts of the cerebrum responsible for language may cause problems with speech or even understanding words.
  • Tumors in the front part of the cerebrum can affect thinking and personality.
  • Tumors in an area of the brain called the basal ganglia typically cause abnormal movements and positioning of the body.
  • If the tumor is in the cerebellum, which controls coordination, a person might have trouble walking or other everyday functions such as eating.
  • Tumors in the back part of the cerebrum, or around the pituitary gland, the optic nerve or certain other cranial nerves can cause vision problems.
  • Tumors in or near other cranial nerves might lead to loss of hearing, balance problems, weakness of some facial muscles or trouble swallowing.

The brain also controls functions of some other organs, including hormone production, so brain tumors can also cause many other symptoms.

Diagnosis

Physicians will ask questions about symptoms, along with a personal and family health history when they are diagnosing a brain tumor. A physical exam is performed, which includes a neurological exam. The physician may order a CT scan or MRI to see detailed images or the brain if a tumor is suspected. The physician may also request an angiogram or magnetic resonance angiogram to look at the blood vessels in the brain.

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS)

Movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, Dystonia and Essential Tremor can be debilitating, but Wellington Regional is now offering a surgery called Deep Brain Stimulation that can improve symptoms and day-to-day living.  Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is one of the most common surgical interventions for the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease and Essential Tremor and can show dramatic results for those patients who qualify for the surgery.

Parkinson’s disease can develop when certain nerves in the brain break down or die. The loss of those cells disrupts the communications chemical in the brain called dopamine. With reduced dopamine levels, the brain can develop abnormal activity, which can lead to the shaking and movement issues that are common in movement disorders. The cause of these movement disorders are not fully understood, but symptoms often start slowly and develop into life-changing complications. More than 1 million Americans suffer from Essential Tremor, the most common neurological movement disorder in the country, and 500,000 have Parkinson’s disease.

In the DBS surgery, thin electrodes are stereotactically guided to an exact predetermined location in the brain that treats these disorders. The wires are then connected to a battery (called a pulse generator, which is about the size of a pacemaker) that is implanted in the upper chest. The battery, which is activated two weeks after it is implanted, sends electrical impulses to the electrodes in the brain that can disrupt the signals that are causing the tremors and other irregular movements. The programming of the pulse generator can take several weeks to fine-tune the adjustments for optimal impact of the DBS on a patient’s symptoms. The battery for the pulse generator can last for many years and is easily replaced through an outpatient procedure when required.

DBS is approved for the treatment of:

  • Parkinson’s Disease – uncontrollable shaking of the hands and arms, stiffness and the slowing down of movement
  • Essential Tremor – body tremors that occur during activities
  • Dystonia – Involuntary muscle contractions that occur when doing a specific action, such as holding a fork
  • Epilepsy – is a seizure disorder where the brain activity becomes abnormal, which can result in loss of awareness and uncontrollable, involuntary shaking and jerking

Laser Ablation Brain Tumor Surgery

At Wellington Regional, brain tumors can be treated with a minimally invasive laser ablation technique that enables skilled surgeons to use MRI-guided technology to destroy abnormal tissue with a high level of accuracy. The Visualase™ system, an alternative to traditional surgery, uses laser ablation and heat to precisely target and destroy brain tumors. The system enables surgeons to review high-resolution images in real time to destroy the tumor.

During the procedure, surgeons use a special device to direct light energy at the target area of the brain. The light then heats and destroys the targeted area to precisely destroy the tumor without harming surrounding healthy tissue. It offers many advantages including:

  • The procedure does not use radiation so it can be repeated without risk of exposing the brain tissue to too much radiation. 
  • Because of its accuracy and size, the laser can be used to reach some brain tumors that were considered inoperable brain tumors.
  • Patients usually return to normal actives faster than through traditional surgical options.
  • The incision is small which usually results in very little scarring and rapid healing of the incision.
  • Laser ablation therapy can be performed in conjunction with other treatment modalities with little to no interruption.
  • Often only a one-night stay in the hospital is needed following the minimally invasive surgical procedure.

    Individual results may vary. There are risks associated with any surgical procedure. Talk with your doctor about these risks to find out if robotic surgery or minimally invasive surgery is right for you.

Find a Doctor for Neurological Care

If you need a referral to a physician at Wellington Regional Medical Center, call our free physician referral service at 561-798-9880.

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