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Carle Neurosurgeon Paul Arnold

A Few Minutes With Carle Neurosurgeon Dr. Paul Arnold

AHS media relations specialist Vince Lara spends a Few Minutes With Carle neurosurgeon Dr. Paul Arnold, who discusses traumatic brain injuries and the Nov. 1 Veterans Day event at Carle, co-sponsored by the Chez Veterans Center.

To register for the event, go here.

Click here to see the full transcript.

VINCE LARA: This is Vince Lara in the Communications Office at the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois.

Today, I'll speak with Dr. Paul Arnold, neurologist at Carle Hospital, about the upcoming traumatic brain injury event at Illinois.

Now, your listed medical interests involve the spine primarily. How and why did you get involved in traumatic brain injuries? And did it pre-date you becoming a neurosurgeon?

PAUL ARNOLD: It did not pre-date me becoming a neurosurgeon, but I've been interested in head injury for a long period of time, in addition to spinal cord injury. I think most neurosurgeons take care of some level of head injury. And I trained at a place where you saw a lot of head injury-- at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. And so I routinely take care of head injury in addition to my other interest of complex spine surgery.

Before I came to Carle and the University of Illinois, I was at the University of Kansas. And I worked with the NFL as a concussion doctor for six years on the sidelines. I'm also on the Executive Committee of the AANS, which is our main professional organization. I'm on the Executive Committee of the section on neurotrauma. So I've had a long interest in head injury and head trauma that parallels my interest in the spine and spine surgery.

VINCE LARA: OK. Now, how often are you confronted with TBI as a neurosurgeon? Is that a very common injury that you see?

PAUL ARNOLD: Every day.

VINCE LARA: Every day.

PAUL ARNOLD: We have patients that get admitted to the Carle Hospital every day with some type of head injury from so-called "minor head injury," where people sometimes are able to go home, to some very devastating head injuries. And runs the gamut on a regular basis. We always have patients in the intensive care unit-- more than one. We have some type of head injury that require a complex medical or surgical management.

VINCE LARA: And when you're looking to diagnose TBI, what are the main things you're looking for-- symptoms, I suppose?

PAUL ARNOLD: Well, if the patients are able to talk and tell you about it, they can tell you what happened. A lot of times, it's presumed if patients are in a state where they're unable to communicate-- if they're in a coma or have a bad head injury-- it's often obvious.

But a lot of it goes back to sort of the basics of diagnosing anything that you learn in medical school in residency. Take a good history from the patient if you can, or from the family members or people around the patient. Examine them as best you can. And usually that can be a pretty quick assessment. You don't have to spend an hour figuring out the severity of someone's head injury.

And there's a lot of diagnostic methods of doing that. The most quick and common one is with a CAT scan of the head. But frequently, we'll get an MRI of the brain as well. And as you know, Carle is, in collaboration with the university, getting a 7-Tesla MRI, which, I'm told, will be here in the middle of next year, which we're all very excited about, and I think will really add to our ability to diagnose and hopefully treat head injury.

VINCE LARA: Turning to the event, which is called "A Dialogue on Traumatic Brain Injury," why is an event like that important? And to you, what's the goal?

PAUL ARNOLD: Well, I think it's important in a lot of ways. There is a lot of very well-known researchers and physicians in this area who are going to come together and hopefully disseminate knowledge to the professional and lay community about how to manage head injury and let everybody know what the latest is in the management of head injury.

But it also helps raise awareness because a lot of what we do for treatment is not completely effective. We haven't been able to really find a cure for bad head injury. And so prevention is a key in managing head injury. So any kind of information we can disseminate on that regard, I think would be useful to physicians in the community at large and locally.

We're also including a lot of different populations. We're focusing on veterans' health. But we also have a very big and robust program for athletes in the local and regional communities, as well as everybody else who doesn't fit into that category-- a person who's involved in a car accident or a fall or a sporting event, or a victim of violence. So head injury touches a lot of people in a lot of different ways. And we have a lot of different backgrounds.

And you never know who that's going to happen to. It can happen suddenly. It's not something that's often genetic. If your parents or brother or sister had a head injury, it doesn't mean you're going to get one. And because they haven't had one, it doesn't mean you're not going to get one. So the randomness is sometimes unpredictable about it.

VINCE LARA: Spring boarding off of that answer-- so this event is associated with veterans. But I think people would be curious to know who the people are that are most susceptible to a traumatic brain injury. What are those populations?

PAUL ARNOLD: Well, veterans certainly are.


PAUL ARNOLD: Being in combat or in training for combat is a common cause of head injury. And it has a lot of implications, both financially, psychologically, economically over a long period of time, because people live with their head injuries a long period of time, particularly veterans who are offering to sacrifice for the good of the country.

And so we certainly want to be able to be in a position to take care of them and offer them the best we have. But head injury, again, it can happen to anybody. And you never know when it's going to hit sometimes.

VINCE LARA: What are you hoping that people who attend this event or even read about it come away with?

PAUL ARNOLD: Well, we hope that people come away with a better understanding of what head injury, what we, as a hospital and community and as a medical group can offer them, both here in the VA in Danville and what the Chez Center has to offer veterans who suffer a head injury who can benefit from their services. I think it's a wonderful center. We had the privilege of touring it and hearing more about it. And I think it's an outstanding resource for people locally in the community.

And so we're hoping that we are able to disseminate knowledge that will prevent people from getting a head injury. And the first thing is that if they do get it, knowing that Carle and the university and the Chez Center and the VA are all resources for taking care of patients with a head injury, both in the short and medium and the long term.

VINCE LARA: My thanks to Dr. Arnold. This has been "A Few Minutes With."

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