Monday, September 12, 2016 12:00 AM

Putting all the pieces together to bring expert neuroscience care closer to home

Patients who once traveled to the Bay Area or Los Angeles for brain and spine specialists have found that expertise at Community Regional Medical Center. Over the past six years Community has committed the resources to quadruple the number neurosurgeons from 3 to 13 and open a 20-bed neuro intensive care unit – the only one in the region. Community has also increased surgical staff by 80% and added four more operating suites to support a surge in patients, many of them transferred from other hospitals for a higher level of care.
Community Regional now sees 1,200 stroke patients a year, about 15 of them each month transferred from other hospitals. It’s among 300 hospitals nationwide with the technology and neurosurgeons able to do large clot retrievals from the brain when the clot-busting drug t-Pa doesn’t work. Using a catheter snaked through a blood vessel in the groin and guided up into the brain, neurosurgeons at Community Regional use a wire mesh grabber to remove a clot blocking blood flow. The same technique can also be used to shore up a leaking blood vessel or an aneurysm in the brain by installing a tiny stent, as they did for Dot Powell, a retired Fresno Unified elementary school principal.
Dot Powell, 69, is back to doing nearly everything, including biking, after bleeding in her brain put her in Community Regional’s neuro intensive care for 11 days this summer. Her husband Larry Powell, the former Fresno County Superintendent of Schools, was amazed at the care and experts he found close to their Fresno home:  “It was so slick and everything was done so well in that neuro ICU. There was no need for us to go to Stanford or someplace else for great care.”
Community Regional become one of the first 17 hospitals in nation to open a hybrid operating suite with biplane technology in 2014 so surgical teams can go from a minimally-invasive procedure to a full open cranial or spine surgery within minutes. And a second hybrid operating room is planned for 2017 to increase that capacity. Nearly half of all the brain cancer surgeries in a 7-county region are performed at Community Regional.
And to make sure even those in more rural parts of the Valley are close to expert neuro care, Community’s team of neurosurgeons travels to a Tulare County hospital regularly to perform minor neuro surgeries. And Community provides education to emergency department staffs and physicians in surrounding counties on critical neuro care.

Erin Kennedy reported this story. Reach her at