There are many treatments and options in the neurological field, and Dartmouth-Hitchcock pediatric neurosurgeon David F. Bauer, MD, is exploring as many as possible.
"My goal," says Bauer, "is to get the word out to physical therapists and providers that there are a range of procedures available, and if a child could benefit from them or from the expertise and commitment of our multi-disciplinary team, we can at least evaluate and offer the pros and cons to the families and patients."
Currently, Bauer is working on gathering together the right people and the right set-up and support for the rhizotomy procedure - one of the best options for children with cerebral palsy. "In the rhizotomy procedure we cut nerve roots in the lumbar spine in the low back, and kids with spasticity can benefit greatly from cutting these sensory roots because then they have less sensory feedback to the nerves, so they have less resistance," Bauer explains. "It’s amazing how – immediately in the operating room – the arms and legs become more supple. It’s a truly gratifying procedure and parents are really happy right after the operation. The kids receive intensive post-operative therapy to improve gait and function. Even children with both arm and leg spasticity can greatly benefit from this procedure. Currently, we are building a center of excellence, and dorsal rhizotomy is a key part of this program."
Bauer has been determined to make life-changing medical treatments accessible to children. "I really enjoy being around kids and taking care of kids," he says. "I think they are a part of society that sometimes is underserved – so it’s kind of a personal mission from that standpoint." Bauer joined the D-H staff in July 2012, coming into an environment, he says, is supportive and interested in moving forward. "I was only looking at jobs in an academic setting so that I could teach. That was critical. D-H gave me the opportunity to pursue my subspecialty interests in pediatric epilepsy and epilepsy surgery, also pediatric spasticity - performing baclofen pumps and selective dorsal rhizotomy."
Since coming to D-H, Bauer says he has had the opportunity to work with several "wonderful people who are open to new ideas" and who are interested in teaching and learning. "I work with many other specialists and we have multi-disciplinary clinics for spina bifida with pediatric urologists, orthopaedic surgeons, and developmental pediatricians, in addition to our therapists. I think we take better care of our kids by having all of these providers see them at once. We also have conferences focusing on kids with spinal tumors, and epilepsy conferences every week where we discuss how best to help our young patients and if surgery may be beneficial."
Each technique or procedure, Bauer says, has the potential to improve the lives of children with a range of disorders from epilepsy and cerebral palsy to hydrocephalus and spina bifida.
"There’s so much that I can say about treatment options and procedures that can make a difference and improve the lives of our patients, but mainly I want to focus on taking care of the health needs of the children of New Hampshire and Vermont—as well as the surrounding areas—and making sure that they can get the best possible neurosurgical care."