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Learning Through Discussion

Do you have something you love to do? Something that’s important to you? If so, chances are you enjoy discussing it with like-minded people.

Enthusiasts of a career, sport or hobby can hold animated discussions about their passion—especially, it seems, to those eager to learn. That’s true and then some for neurosurgeons. For one thing, neurosurgeons already have a passion for detail.

And then there’s the fact that there is almost no end to what can be learned about the nervous system—in particular, the identification and correction of problems within it. So when neurosurgeons get together, they are eager to dive into the details of diagnosis and treatment.

Neurosurgeons who specialize in vascular surgery (surgery on blood vessels) are especially interested to hear from Dr. Robert Solomon, Chairman of Columbia Neurosurgery. Dr. Solomon is an expert in brain aneurysms—bulging, ballooning blood vessels in the brain.

At this fall’s meeting of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS), Dr. Solomon served on a panel of four aneurysm experts. They considered interesting aneurysm cases in front of an audience of neurosurgeons who were invited to join the discussion.

Case-based learning isn’t a new concept for medicine, but it is increasingly popular. It takes advantage of the basic human interest in story and discussion—and our ability to use both as learning tools.

CNS meetings have featured case-based courses for several years. But the aneurysm course Dr. Solomon participated in was part of a new model for CNS this year.

Here’s how it worked: Neurosurgeons from around the country and the world had the opportunity to sign up for sections on aneurysm, epilepsy, pituitary tumors and other areas of expertise. (Our own Dr. Peter Angevine moderated the session on adult spinal deformity and degeneration.)

In the months leading up to CNS, course attendees submitted cases for consideration. The expert panel selected a number of cases to examine and debate during each two-hour course.

You can imagine the lively discussions that took place.

Lots of factors go into creating an aneurysm treatment plan. Depending on the case, aneurysm surgery may be scheduled well in advance, or it may be a time-sensitive emergency. Aneurysms may be treated with traditional open brain surgery, or with minimally invasive surgery, in which the surgical tools are passed through blood vessels.

An aneurysm’s location, size, type, blood flow pattern and risk for rupture must all be considered when creating a treatment plan. If the risk for rupture is low and the risk of surgery would be high, a doctor and patient may decide the best plan is to leave the aneurysm alone.

For each case, panel and attendees discussed treatment options, potential complications and a surgeon’s best strategies for identifying and avoiding those complications. Dr. Solomon and the other panel experts drew on decades of experience with hundreds of cases as they weighed in on treatment plans and surgeries for both complicated and straightforward cases.

In the end, it was a satisfying afternoon for neurosurgical aneurysm experts. Throughout a day of dialogue with respected colleagues, the neurosurgeons gained knowledge that will help them offer their patients the best possible care.

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

patient journey

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