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Matters of the Brain

Matters of the brain –
Anu Panchal – Tampa Bay Parenting MagazineReferred to a neurosurgeon? Don’t worry—it may not be as bad as you think.​

He’s a nice guy, a highly credentialed and respected professional in his field of neurosurgery who breaks down complex medical terms without condescension, and a kid at heart. Despite all that, Dr. Abilash Haridas isn’t someone most parents are thrilled to meet: Being referred to a pediatric neurosurgeon is a sure bet that your child is probably suffering from more than the flu. 

The good news is that if your child is dealing with a serious neurological condition, they are in the safest possible hands with Haridas, the newest pediatric neurosurgeon at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital. “My philosophy is to treat every child like my own child,” says Haridas, “and that’s never led me down the wrong path.”

As well as credentials and experience with some of the most cutting-edge techniques in the field, Haridas is a believer in collaboration, not just with some of the best minds in the field nationally and globally, but with the families of his patients who are invited to become important partners in the care of their child. 

“We’re working on one goal, and it takes a team to get each child better.”

So why do children have to see a pediatric neurosurgeon? (Someone who treats anyone from birth to age 22 for issues pertaining to the brain, spine and spinal cord.) Here are some of the most common issues:

HYDROCEPHALUS (sometimes referred to as water on the brain) is one of the most common issues Haridas sees. It’s something that babies can be born with or develop as a result of infection or trauma and the way to fix it is to install a tube that drains the excess fluid from the head to the tummy. Research has now led to endoscopic methods in which doctors use miniature cameras and tubes to find better pathways by which to drain the fluid that offer the child a better quality of life. 

BLEEDING IN THE BRAIN AND STROKES fits into the category of vascular disorders, another set of serious problems Haridas encounters. These are difficult to diagnose in very young children who can’t even verbalize their problems. The complex conditions require meticulous planning and tedious hours of surgery. In stroke patients, Haridas employs cutting edge microsurgery to create new pathways of blood flow to the brain. He is one of few pediatric neurosurgeons in the country trained in these advanced surgical techniques, which he continues to teach and perfect.

BRAIN TUMORS are also quite prevalent. Today, surgery techniques have developed so far that it is even possible to perform surgery on a child who is awake during the procedure. For example, having the child speak during the operation can help surgeons figure out if they are too close to tumors near the speech center of the brain. There are also specialized GPS navigation tools used during surgery to ensure complete removal.

At St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, Haridas is able to use an MRI during surgery, one of the latest technologies to help ensure the best results. 

“All these tools are used simultaneously, and with the right care team, our kids make remarkable recoveries,” he says.

EPILEPSY SURGERY has also made numerous advances. Most seizures are controlled by medications, but for some kids, surgical treatment is necessary. Using cutting-edge imaging, Haridas is able to localize the source and remove it, sometimes half the brain even. 

“It’s quite remarkable how well kids recover, as they learn to rewire and relearn quicker than adults. By teaming up with our neurology colleagues to properly select these children, we continue to identify and deliver the best care.”

Improved technology has helped dramatically impact outcomes in pediatric neurosurgery, says Haridas, both in terms of diagnosis, imaging and surgical technique, but it’s important to note that technology takes time to develop, perfect and teach. 

“It’s not like a new phone every year,” he says. 

That’s why collaboration is crucial, and a cornerstone of his and St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital’s philosophy. 

“You can’t make this happen without the right team approach, and tailoring each treatment to the child. This requires meticulous attention to detail and steadfast determination to find answers, no matter how dire the situation.”

When it comes to pediatric neurosurgery, Haridas says it’s important to understand that no matter how bleak the situation seems upon diagnosis, options today are far better than ever before. 

Says Haridas: “the horizon is really, really exciting.” The beauty of treating children is that they rarely understand the gravity of their situation, so once they recover they bounce right back into living their fun-filled life. And being able to facilitate that trajectory is the reason for Haridas’ being: “It’s the most gratifying feeling I’ve experienced in my life,” says Haridas.

 

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