The radiation oncology and neuroscience teams at Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) recently partnered to provide the region’s first treatment for arteriovenous malformation (AVM), a tangle of abnormal blood vessels in the brain. Because of the high risk for stroke and myriad neurological conditions associated with AVM, patients have traditionally been sent elsewhere for care – but now they can get the care they need close to home.
“It takes a lot of collaboration between different specialists to treat a complex neurovascular disorder like this,” said Sung Lee, MD, NGMC’s medical director of Neurointerventional Surgery and a neurointerventional surgeon with Northeast Georgia Physicians Group (NGPG). “Being able to provide this treatment speaks to how we are continuing to advance the neuroscience capabilities in this region, so patients won’t have to travel for life-saving care.”
Using his expertise in angiography, Dr. Lee first located the tangled vessels in the patient’s brain and then helped develop a plan with Craig Baden, MD, a radiation oncologist with NGPG, for targeted radiation treatment. These radiation treatment capabilities have been available at NGMC to treat cancerous tumors for years, but – without a neurointerventional surgeon like Dr. Lee – AVM treatment wasn’t possible.
“Anytime you’re dealing with a complex problem, you need experts from multiple disciplines to come together and develop an appropriate treatment plan,” said Dr. Baden. “And for an AVM treatment, we’ve had some of the pieces in place previously, but we were missing the crucial piece of a neurointerventionalist.”
Patients oftentimes don’t know they have an AVM. Dr. Baden said it’s typically diagnosed incidentally or when a patient goes in for brain imaging due to headache, seizure or some kind of neurologic problem. When concern for AVM arises, Dr. Lee steps in to help decide the best route of treatment for the patient based on certain risk factors.
“A tumor is very easy to see on an MRI,” said Dr. Baden, who has been treating tumors with radiosurgery for years. “But when you’re talking about tiny blood vessels that are connecting improperly in the brain, the best way to see those is by putting a catheter in one of the arteries and going all the way up into the vascular system in the brain – that’s the expertise Dr. Lee brings to the table.”
Dr. Lee has already helped Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) offer new neuroscience care capabilities like mechanical thrombectomy, a critical stroke intervention procedure. With his expertise in angiography, he’s further pushing the program to new heights.
“Dr. Lee is truly an asset to this health system and this region as a whole,” said Meghan Glabach, executive director of Neurosciences at NGHS. “With his help, we’re continually expanding stroke care at NGHS. Our campuses in Barrow, Braselton and Gainesville are now all certified as Primary Stroke Centers, and we plan to continue expanding, putting NGMC on the map as a leader in neurosciences.”
To learn more about NGMC’s neurological care, visit www.nghs.com/neurosciences.