What’s Up, Docs?

Shaena MontanariMarch 25, 2020
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Photo courtesy Barrow Neurological Institute
Photo courtesy Barrow Neurological Institute

Valley medical institutions share their latest and greatest advancements.

Barrow Neurological Institute

The Future of Alzheimer’s Treatment?
More than 5.5 million people in the United States suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, but a new international trial on deep brain stimulation (DBS) seeks to find a way to slow down the effects of the disease. “Drug trials have been slow to produce results, so we are excited to assess whether DBS could offer hope for patients and their families,” Francisco Ponce, M.D., a Barrow neurosurgeon and director of the deep brain stimulation program, said in a press release. Barrow is enrolling patients older than 65 with mild Alzheimer’s in the trial and was the first institution to have a patient go through surgery last year to implant the stimulation device that sends an electrical current directly to the brain.

Ironwood Cancer Centers

Going Flat After Breast Cancer
Ironwood Cancer and Research Centers breast surgeon Patricia Clark, M.D., wants women to know they have options for breast reconstruction after a mastectomy – and one of those options is no reconstruction at all. Increasingly, women are choosing to “go flat,” but this comes with a set of other issues, including surgeons leaving excess skin and bulges. Clark is known for creating a cosmetically pleasing mastectomy, taking it just as seriously as a reconstruction procedure. While she practices in Arizona, she teaches other surgeons around the country her specialized techniques.

Photo courtesy Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers
Photo courtesy Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers
Photo courtesy The CORE Institute
Photo courtesy The CORE Institute

The CORE Institute

Joints and Robots
Together with the Musculoskeletal Orthopedic Research and Education (MORE) Foundation, The CORE Institute researchers have spent the past five years using state-of-the-art software and a robot to study methods of improving joint replacement surgery. They use the robot setup to simulate various activities to test joint replacement implants. This innovative use of the German-manufactured KUKA robot has the potential to impact patients around the world. According to Marc Jacofsky, Ph.D., the chief scientific officer at HOPCo, the company that manages CORE, this has been a cornerstone of their biomechanical research and the advancements they have made are beneficial to both industry and researchers.

Mayo Clinic

Trachea Transplants
Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix has created a groundbreaking program designed to transplant the larynx and trachea, the first United Network for Organ Sharing-approved program of its kind in the country. The program, led by otolaryngologist David G. Lott, M.D., is currently searching for the ideal first patient for the procedure. The first transplant will be done with cadaver tissue, but Lott and his team are working on methods of tissue engineering that allow for a 3D-printed scaffold that includes a patient’s stem cells to be used in the procedure in lieu of donor tissue, which would eliminate the need for immune-suppressing drugs.

Photo courtesy Mayo Clinic
Photo courtesy Mayo Clinic
Photo courtesy Phoenix Children's Hospital
Photo courtesy Phoenix Children's Hospital

Phoenix Children’s Hospital/Barrow Neurological Institute

Eliminating Epilepsy
For children having dozens of seizures a day, the groundbreaking surgery developed by pediatric epilepsy specialist Angus Wilfong, M.D., is a lifesaver. Wilfong, the division chief of pediatric neurology at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and associate director of Barrow Neurological Institute at the hospital, is the pioneer of a minimally invasive laser ablation surgery that has been effective for treating epilepsy in young patients. In one case, a 10-year-old suffering from epilepsy went from having up to 30 seizures a day to having around 50 total since her surgery years ago. The surgery, performed at the hospital by P. David Adelson, M.D., involves less pain and recovery time compared to more invasive brain surgeries.

Banner Health

Preventing Physician Burnout

Studies have shown upward of 50 percent of physicians in the United States are experiencing burnout, which can lead to medical mistakes in the hospital and catastrophic personal consequences for medical professionals. The Cultivating Happiness in Medicine program at Banner Health, led by Marjorie Bessel, M.D., Banner’s chief clinical officer, is designed to monitor burnout and take a holistic approach to dealing with this serious issue. The program was formally launched last year and has already reached more than 3,800 medical professionals through social events and provided them access to an easy-to-use resource page. Bessel says they are working to build a workplace where medical professionals can “thrive, grow, and focus on the mission of healing that led them to choose this career.”

Photo by Jesse Rieser
Photo by Jesse Rieser

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