Responding to a growing need in central and northeast Pennsylvania for highly specialized care of pediatric brain tumors and other central nervous system disorders, Geisinger's Janet Weis Children's Hospital has launched a state-of-the-art and comprehensive pediatric neurosurgery program. The multidisciplinary program is led by pediatric neurosurgeon Amir Kershenovich, M.D., who says he is pleased to accept his challenging role.
"The launching of a new program is very exciting, and I feel very fortunate to be a part of it," said Dr. Kershenovich. "Brain and spinal tumors, movement disorders, hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain), spina bifida, epilepsy, brain malformations and muscle spasticity are very amenable to neurosurgery treatments."
According to Steven Toms, M.D., director of the Division of Neurosurgery at Geisinger, the new program was developed to meet a growing need in rural Pennsylvania. "The number of children being diagnosed with brain tumors is increasing," he said. "At the same time, there are relatively few pediatric neurosurgeons in Pennsylvania, and fewer still with Dr. Kershenovich's highly specialized expertise."
"There have been great advancements in the treatment of brain and spinal cord tumors in children in the last two decades," noted Dr. Kershenovich. "A child's brain is still developing and provides the surgeon a much better opportunity to completely remove brain and spinal cord tumors."
Fluent in Spanish, Dr. Kershenovich specializes in treatment of pediatric brain tumors and other central nervous system disorders, including congenital malformations, epilepsy and hydrocephalus. He is supported by a multidisciplinary team that draws on the expertise of specialists in pediatric oncology, neurology, endocrinology, neuroradiology, neuropsychology, social support and genetics.
The program also participates in clinical trials sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Children's Cancer Study Group, enabling the clinical team to provide leading-edge care for pediatric patients with brain and spinal cord tumors.
In addition to brain tumors, breakthroughs in the treatment of congenital malformations of the central nervous system, including spinal bifida, are ongoing. According to Dr. Kershenovich, Geisinger provides a coordinated approach to caring for a patient with spina bifida. A team of pediatricians, neurologists, orthopaedic surgeons and urologists closely monitors the child through adulthood and pursue surgical treatments, as indicated.
Another of Dr. Kershenovich's specialties is in the treatment of hydrocephalus. In selected patients, Dr. Kershenovich utilizes an endoscopic approach to draining fluid from the brain. This alternative bypasses the blockage and detours the fluid flow. As a result, it eliminates the need placing foreign material (shunt) in the brain; which results in a shorter recover and fewer surgical risks.
Treatment of epilepsy is another focus of the pediatric neurosurgery program. Working with Geisinger's team of epilepsy experts in pediatric neurology, psychology, neuroradiology, Dr. Kershenovich evaluates children with epilepsy to determine if surgery is the best treatment option.
"Epilepsy usually begins in childhood when uncontrolled seizures can have a significant effect on a child's developmental potential as well the ability to enjoy childhood," explained Dr. Kershenovich. "Surgery effectively controls seizures in two-thirds of selected patients and usually dramatically improves a child with epilepsy's quality of life."
In addition to his work with children, Dr. Kershenovich is a member of Geisinger's adult epilepsy team, and is skilled at performing open craniotomy surgeries. He also performs deep brain stimulation, a neurosurgical treatment that stimulates the brain with mild electrical signals to improve symptoms for a number of conditions, such as essential tremor, Parkinson's disease, intractable depression, obsessive-compulsive disease and dystonia.
"Being able to surgically improve a neurological condition to allow a patient the chance to enjoy life is a very special privilege," he said.
Geisinger's Janet Weis Children's Hospital