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Dr. Christopher Winfree Teaches Neurosurgeons in Serbia

Dr. Winfree on Panel in Serbia

At Columbia University Medical Center/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, our neurosurgeons have a tradition of sharing their expertise with others. Often they give presentations outside New York, even outside the country, to teach other neurosurgeons about the very latest techniques.

Recently, Dr. Christopher Winfree was invited to speak at the second annual Theoretical, Practical & Hands-on International Course in Peripheral Nerve and Brachial Plexus Surgery, held in Belgrade, Serbia. In true Columbia fashion, he was happy to have the opportunity to give back and teach others in the field.

In Serbia, Dr. Winfree moderated a session of presentations and gave two talks, all within his specialty of peripheral nerve surgery.

Peripheral nerves are critical structures that carry important information to and from the brain and spinal cord. These nerves can be injured or involved in a disease. As Director of the Peripheral Nerve Center at Columbia, Dr. Winfree is one of the leading experts on diagnosing and treating peripheral nerve disorders.

During his first talk, Dr. Winfree shared the best ways to diagnose one disorder in particular: peripheral nerve sheath tumors. This tumor grows from cells that surround peripheral nerves and can be either cancerous or noncancerous. Making the distinction is crucial, so Dr. Winfree taught the neurosurgeons his evidence-based process for making an accurate diagnosis.

For his second lecture, he focused on how to manage pain caused by a brachial plexus injury. The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that connects the spinal cord in the neck to the hands, arms and shoulders. An injury can arise when these nerves become stretched, compressed or, in extreme cases, torn, and pain from the injury may persist after it has been treated.

Dr. Winfree explained that conservative therapy like medication and physical therapy should be offered first to patients with pain. If the pain is not relieved, then moving to more invasive treatments is appropriate.

Dr. Winfree taught the neurosurgeons specifically about two techniques: peripheral nerve stimulation and spinal cord stimulation. Both techniques involve surgically implanting a mild electrical stimulator, but they differ in placement.

For peripheral nerve stimulation, the stimulator is implanted near the nerve. For spinal cord stimulation, the stimulator is implanted in the spine. Once implanted, the stimulator sends brief pulses of electricity to the nerve or spinal cord and overrides the pain signal.

Dr. Winfree enjoyed his time in Serbia and the opportunity to teach neurosurgeons from all over the world.

Learn more about Dr. Winfree at his bio page here.

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