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Ken is Walking Thanks to Memorial's Extraordinary Neuroscience Center Team

When Ken first experienced numbness and tingling in his toes, it was easy for the active, 52-year-old business owner to rationalize the symptoms. "It started with a tingling feeling in my left baby toe," says Ken. "I was healthy and active so I thought it would pass."

But when Ken's symptoms progressed, he made an appointment to see his physician. "Our family physician suspected that his blood pressure medication was the cause of his symptoms," says Ken's wife, Barbara. "When the medication changes didn't result in improvement, we suspected a pinched nerve."

Searching for Answers

Soon, Ken's condition became more serious. "My legs became weaker and I had trouble walking," says Ken. "At that point, my wife suggested we get a second opinion at the Neuroscience Center at Memorial Regional Hospital, where she is employed as administrative director of nursing support services."

Ken underwent a thorough evaluation and a series of MRI scans to rule out multiple sclerosis, cancer, and other neurological conditions. Eventually, the MRIs and a spinal angiography led the Memorial neurologists to a definitive diagnosis of spinal cord arteriovenous malformation (AVM), a congenital disorder of the circulatory system in which a complex, tangled web of arteries and veins negatively affects the spinal cord blood supply.

"Because of the abnormal exchange of blood and oxygen, patients with spinal cord AVM are at risk of hemorrhage, paralysis and even death," says neurosurgeon Luis Rodriguez, MD, FACS, Memorial Healthcare System. "In Ken's case, our goal was to preserve his mobility and prevent further damage to his spinal cord and nerves."

Making Surgical History

AVM cases are relatively rare, affecting approximately 300,000 Americans. Most AVMs occur in the brain or spine.

"Treatment protocols are decided on a case-by-case basis," says Dr. Rodriguez. "In the past, we have treated AVM patients with minimally invasive procedures. However, we took a team approach and consulted with our interventional neuroradiologists. Due to the size and location of Ken's AVM, we recommended an open, conventional repair – a surgical first at Memorial Regional Hospital."

For Ken and Barb, the choice was clear.

"After exploring our options, we chose to have the surgery done at Memorial Regional Hospital," Ken says. "We had complete faith in their abilities and resources to perform the surgery."

After a five-hour operation performed by Dr. Rodriguez and his colleague, Greg Zorman, MD, FACS, Chief of Neurosurgery, Memorial Healthcare System, Ken's AVM was successfully repaired. A follow-up MRI scan confirmed the veins surrounding Ken's spinal cord had returned to normal.

"A heartfelt thank you goes out to everyone involved in Ken's care," says Barb. "Talk about patient and family-centered care! As a family member, I felt cared for, involved and informed."

Although the surgery could not repair all of the AVM's damage, Ken has returned to work and is grateful to the Memorial Regional Hospital neurosurgery team for his preserved mobility.

"I'm indebted to the neurosurgery team and everyone behind the scenes," says Ken. "From the physicians to all the support departments that make Memorial Regional Hospital so special, we could not have received better care anywhere else."


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