Cutting Edge Caring: The Impact of Pediatric Neurosurgeons

By September 4, 2018 Health, Pediatrics

Deborah L. Benzil, MD, FACS, FAANS
Chair, AANS/CNS Communications and Public Relations Committee
Vice Chair, Neurosurgery
Cleveland Clinic Foundation
Cleveland, OH

For all the clichéd sayings about illness and injury in children, no words truly capture the struggles and emotions of parents, siblings and loved ones who are engulfed by cancer, trauma, congenital difficulties, scoliosis or other neurological disorders seen across the pediatric population. Standing in those shoes is intense, lonely and scary. Fortunately, much progress has been made on many of these fronts, and there is much reason for hope. Beyond innovation, research and technical expertise, pediatric neurosurgeons must also deal with this added emotional stress and with patients who may have limited capacity to understand the nature of their illness and the required interventions. Truly, we must salute those who are tirelessly devoted to this subspecialty. We also treasure the families for placing their most precious possessions in our care, trusting us and letting us become a part of their lives.

Consider a few examples:

  • Central nervous system (CNS) tumors are the second most common cancer in children after leukemia, but unfortunately, have not seen as dramatic a response to adjuvant interventions;
  • Congenital malformations of the CNS remain among the most common birth defects despite significant advances in prevention and early detection; and
  • While seatbelts, car seats and prevention of drunk driving have been effective, head trauma in children continues to have a huge impact on emergency rooms, hospitals, schools, patients, families and public health in general. It accounts for at least 80 percent of trauma-related deaths.

As summer fades and school days return, we turn our Neurosurgery Blog spotlight on the full range of the subspecialty of pediatric neurosurgeons. The scope of their practice is enormous. Interventions now start before birth with intra-uterine surgical intervention. Newborns with CNS congenital issues often require very early and urgent neurosurgical intervention. Throughout early childhood and into the teenage years, kids may need the specialized intervention of a pediatric neurosurgeon for trauma, infection, scoliosis, tumors and more. Some who began their care during infancy or childhood, remain under the care of pediatric neurosurgeons well into adulthood.

Advances in anesthesia, imaging, adjuvant care, ICU support, nursing and numerous supportive services, pediatric neurosurgical care has become safer, less intrusive and more accommodating. It is truly a component of our health care system that has benefitted enormously from collaborative efforts and thus has made great strides. Continued support for research, new treatments and systems of care are essential to protect this progress today and into the future. Neurosurgeons remain at the forefront of these many efforts.

Journey with us throughout September (and part of October) as we highlight many of these remarkable stories — of patients, of those who have worked to transform the field, of new approaches to old problems and of the ongoing work to ensure even better quality outcomes in the future. We encourage everyone to join the discussion online by using the hashtag #PedsNeurosurgery.

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