Neurologists Specialize in Solving Mysteries

December 19, 2016

Identifying a patient’s neurological issues deserves thorough investigation. That’s why a neurologist is considered part physician and part sleuth.

That’s just fine with Dr. Vernon Kent Cooper and Dr. Christopher R. Andrew, who navigate through a body’s nervous system to diagnosis and treat a range of neurological diseases, disorders and injuries, as well as stroke management, at Mercy Clinic Neurology – Carthage.

“Neurology is interesting and challenging,” Dr. Cooper said. “It keeps you on your toes.”

Neurologists determine how the body’s nervous system affects muscles, the brain and the spinal cord. These specialists typically don’t see patients for preventive measures, but for treatment after a condition has developed.

Most often, the two doctors treat patients with headaches, seizures disorders such as epilepsy, dementia such as Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease. For stroke patients who don’t require acute care, outpatient treatment also is available at Carthage.

“Most of the time, diagnosis and treatment can be done here,” Dr. Cooper said of patient referrals to the adult neurology outpatient clinic at 3114 Medical Park Drive, adjacent to Mercy Hospital Carthage on the McCune Brooks Campus. “We also do diagnostic testing, such as EMG studies.”

An electromyogram (EMG) measures the electrical activity of muscles when they’re at rest and when in use. These nerve conduction studies measure how well and how fast nerves can send electrical signals. EMGs are used to determine treatment plans for conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome and pinched nerves.

Most of a neurology patient’s treatment involves medication, although other options have emerged over the years, Dr. Cooper said.
“It’s more than just medications nowadays,” he said. “We have other treatments and devices available.”

An example is deep brain stimulation, which involves a surgical procedure used to treat a variety of disabling neurological symptoms, most often Parkinson’s. An implanted neurostimulator blocks electrical signals from targeted areas of the brain of patients whose symptoms can’t be adequately controlled with medications.

While Drs. Cooper and Andrew don’t perform the surgery, they can monitor and adjust neurostimulator settings. They also can monitor a similar device for epilepsy patients called a vagus nerve stimulator that prevents seizures by sending regular, mild pulses of electrical energy to the brain.

Another treatment method is what is commonly known by the trademark name Botox. The American Academy of Neurology now considers the use of botulinum toxin injected into muscles as safe and effective for treating neurological conditions such as stroke, spinal cord injuries and chronic migraines.

Neurological patients often will need to be treated every few months for several years, so having a specialist nearby is a bonus.

“A lot of the older patients are appreciative that they don’t have to drive to Joplin or Springfield and can see a neurologist a short drive away,” Dr. Cooper said. “It’s definitely a convenience for them.”

For more information about Mercy Clinic Neurology – Carthage, 3114 Medical Park Drive, call 417-359-1820.

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