Neurological Surgery

Clinical Care

Neurological Surgery is an area of medicine that focuses on the brain, spinal cord and nerves. The surgeons in the IU School of Medicine Department of Neurological Surgery are masters of clinical subspecialties. Those who study the nervous system believe it is too complex for an individual to know everything about it. Likewise, the disorders and diseases that afflict any part of this intricate system—tumors, genetic disorders, lesions, aneurysms and pain along with countless others—are so complex that a single surgeon cannot fully grasp all the ways to treat all the disorders and diseases.

That is why these surgeons are dedicated to mastering a particular subspecialty—a specific area of the nervous system and its unique disorders and diseases. By having a subspecialty within neurosurgery, the teaching surgeons at IU School of Medicine hone their skills in a particular area of the nervous system. Instead of receiving care from a physician who’s balancing a wide variety of cases across all areas of neurosurgery, patients are connected to the specialist who has the most experience with their specific disease, disorder or procedure. In this way, the patient receives care from the neurosurgeon with the highest level of expertise, which ensures better chances for optimal healing and recovery.

The educator physicians at IU School of Medicine care for both adult and pediatric patients requiring neurological surgery within facilities of the IU Health and other clinical facilities throughout the state.

Specialty Programs

Clinical care for patients with brain and spine tumors is an essential component of the Department of Neurological Surgery. Nine internationally recognized neurosurgeons comprise the Neurosurgical Oncology program and the team’s neurosurgical oncology service remains unparalleled in the State of Indiana. Surgical offerings include open complex microsurgical approaches for intrinsic and extra-axial tumors, complex surgical resection and reconstruction of spinal primary and metastatic lesions, intraoperative MRI (IMRIS) assisted resection of low-grade brain tumors, advanced, minimally invasive and cutting edge endoscopic skull base approaches in collaboration with the ENT service (neuro-otology and rhinology), and awake craniotomy with cortical mapping. State-of-the-art equipment is available to advance the safety of these complex microsurgical procedures, including frameless stereotactic navigation, intraoperative imaging, fluorescence guidance, O-arm and neuro-physiology/neuro-monitoring services. Aaron Cohen-Gadol, MD, is the director of Neurosurgical Oncology.

Faculty in the Department of Neurological Surgery at IU School of Medicine who subspecializes in Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery offer extraordinary care for epilepsy, movement disorders, idiopathic cranial nerve disorders, intracranial tumors, spasticity and pain. The school’s Epilepsy surgery program is categorized as a Level 4 Epilepsy Center, and department faculty provide comprehensive evaluation and management of patients with medically intractable complex partial seizures. All patients undergo an extensive protocol-driven, pre-surgical evaluation including inpatient video/EEG monitoring, MR scanning, neuropsychological evaluation and intracarotid sodium amytal testing.

Movement disorders, including Parkinson’s disease and Essential Tremor, are treated with a multidisciplinary team approach that uses stereotactic deep brain stimulation with electrophysiological monitoring. New diseases that may also be treated with deep brain stimulation include obsessive-compulsive disease, depression and possibly obesity. Thomas Witt, MD, and Albert Lee, MD  perform deep brain stimulation as Patient Awake or Asleep procedures. Other IU School of Medicine faculty surgeons who are part of this program are Nicholas Barbaro, MD, and Aaron Cohen-Gadol, MD.

Through advanced technology and experience, the IU School of Medicine Department of Neurological Surgery spine specialists are finding new and effective surgical and non-surgical ways to care for the spine. As neurosurgeons, these faculty spine specialists have a unique understanding of how the bones of the spinal column not only support the back but also protect the delicate, innervated spinal cord. They have a deep knowledge of the interconnections among the many nerves and the roles nerves play when problems with movement and pain arise. With acute insight to how the spine and the brain work together, these surgeon educators bring clinical expertise of diagnosing and treating disorders and deformities of the spine to teaching environments for the benefit of future physicians and patients. Plus, as national leaders and teachers in Image Guidance, these faculty surgeons were among the first groups in the United States to pioneer the use of the STEALTH/ISO-C system for cervical, thoracic and spine surgeries. IU School of Medicine faculty physicians who are part of the Spine Program are John DePowell, MD, Eric Horn, MD, Saad Khairi, MD, Jean-Pierre Mobasser, MD, Shannon McCanna, MD, Eric Potts, MD, and Richard Rodgers, MD.

No one expects to suffer brain or spine trauma. Yet, each year, hundreds of adults and children are injured and rushed to an Indiana trauma center. Often, a neurosurgeon expertly assesses a patient’s injury and creates a plan of care that mobilizes a team of specialists. The Trauma Program at IU School of Medicine is comprised of 32 neurosurgeons who serve four Level 1 Trauma Centers, including IU Methodist Hospital where faculty care for more than 600 traumatic brain injury patients each year and more than 100 severe brain injuries. The trauma neurosurgeons also treat approximately 800 patients for spine/spinal cord injury each year at IU Methodist. Richard Rodgers, MD is the director of Neurotrauma and Neurocritical Care at IU School of Medicine.

Some faculty surgeons in IU School of Medicine’s Department of Neurological Surgery super-specialize in vascular neurosurgery and have international training and experience in blood vessel abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord. If a procedure is being successfully performed somewhere in the world, it is available to the patients treated by these experts. Neurovascular faculty members have published more than 165 research papers and contribute to extensive international and national studies. Thomas Leipzig, MD heads the Neurovascular Section of this team; other faculty who are part of the program are Aaron Cohen-Gadol, MD, Troy Payner, MD, Mitesh Shah, MD, Scott Shapiro, MD, Jesse Savage, MD, Andrew DeNardo, MD, Daniel Sahlein, MD and John Scott, MD.

When children require neurosurgical care, a heightened sense of urgency and importance seems to follow. And because children are not simply smaller patients but ones with unique conditions and considerations, IU School of Medicine faculty specialists who provide clinical care and education are well-trained to meet the treatment needs. The department’s pediatric faculty serves Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, the state’s largest Children’s Hospital and the only level 1 pediatric trauma Center in Indiana—home to the state’s only comprehensive pediatric surgical epilepsy program. Andrew Jea, MD, heads the pediatric program; the other pediatric neurosurgeons are Jodi Smith, MD, Laurie Ackerman, MD, Daniel Fulkerson, MD and Jeffrey S. Raskin, MD, MS.