North Florida and South Georgia residents will no longer need to travel hundreds of miles from home to receive treatments for complex neurological disorders. Approximately 100 or more local residents were transferred annually to hospitals in areas such as Jacksonville and Gainesville for aneurysms, stroke and other brain disorders that required advanced intervention, because there were no treatment facilities in the Big Bend or Panhandle regions.
In response to a growing need for treatment options closer to home, Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH) opened a new neurovascular suite dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of complex brain disorders on Monday, Sept. 23. The suite is the first of its kind in the region and will expand the surgical offerings available to area residents by including endovascular surgery – a less invasive technique that allows patients to receive brain surgery through arteries in the wrists and groin, eliminating the need to open the skull.
“The hospital has taken a huge step forward in adding the neurovascular suite and expanding the services offered,” said Dr. Matthew Lawson, a neurovascular surgeon at Tallahassee Neurological Clinic who specializes in the new, minimally invasive technique. “Traditionally, neurosurgeons had to make an incision in the head and go through the skull to treat disorders of the blood vessels in the brain. Endovascular surgery allows me to treat many of the same disorders, but from within the arteries, which is much less invasive. Patients benefit from the lack of brain exposure and reduced trauma to the skull and brain tissue in comparison to traditional surgery.”
The suite will primarily be used to diagnose and treat two kinds of patients, those who have disorders that are asymptomatic but require intervention to prevent future complications and those who are critically ill and may have experienced an emergency such as a stroke or ruptured aneurysm. Prior to moving to Tallahassee, Lawson spent six months practicing in Gainesville, where he said about one-third of his patients were from the Tallahassee area.
“For patients who are critically ill, having this suite and new surgical technique available in Tallahassee means they won’t have to wait for hours to be flown to a hospital outside of the region for specialized care. Even after intervention, they could be in the hospital for two or three weeks, sometimes longer, recovering. That’s a long time to be away from their family and community, so this will also allow them to recover closer to home.”
The addition of the neurological suite is a step forward toward TMH’s end-goal of having a comprehensive stroke center that provides 24-hour coverage and care for the treatment of acute strokes. In 2005, TMH became the first hospital in the Big Bend to be certified as a Primary Stroke Center by the National Joint Commission due to its dedication to exceeding national standards and guidelines for improving outcomes for stroke patients.