Doctor's innovative reconstructive procedure brings healing to brain surgery patients

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Saturday, April 15, 2023
Doctor's innovative practices bring healing to brain surgery patients
A doctor who specializes in cutting edge reconstructive surgery is offering patients who have undergone neurosurgeries a chance to look and feel like themselves again. Sonia Rincon has the story.

UPPER EAST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) -- A doctor who specializes in cutting edge and innovative reconstructive surgery is offering patients who have undergone neurosurgeries a chance to look and feel like themselves again.

Neurosurgeries are typically performed as a life-saving effort and often leave patients with deformations.

But one surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital is hoping to change that.

Doctor Netanel Ben-Shalom is a neuroplastic surgeon who is specially trained to perform neurological procedures along with reconstructive work to eliminate deformations after surgery. This extra specialty helps patients continue to live without sacrificing their quality of life.

"I realized, here are lot of patients who survive brain surgery," Dr. Ben-Shalom said. "But they don't look like themselves again. They don't feel like themselves again."

Tucker Marr was an avid hockey player who suffered a major brain injury after falling down a flight of stairs.

"I had a fractured right skull and left sided subdural hematoma," Tucker said. "So, a brain bleed."

Surgeons at the time had to remove a portion of his skull to allow the brain to swell and save Tucker's life.

Tucker survived without any major long-term complications and was able to leave the hospital two weeks later.

While Tucker did avoid brain damage he'd never be able to play hockey again due to the missing piece of his skull.

"For a while that looked very normal because my brain was swelling so it replaced that area," Tucker said.

As the swelling went down he began wearing a helmet for both protection and to conceal the dent formed on the side of his head.

"It taught me a lot about how we as society and humans deal with deficiencies in other people," Tucker said.

Tucker's mother reached out to the head of neurosurgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and was directed to Dr. Ben-Shalom for help.

Dr. Ben-Shalom met with Tucker and created a patient-specific implant that would replicate the portion of the skull removed.

"When he came to us, he had a severe deformity and a dent in the side of his head," Dr. Ben-Shalom said. "And we now know that restoring the skull is not only restoring the appearance but also restoring the function."

After a 3-hour surgery, Tucker is healing and will soon be able to return to the athletic life he had before his accident.

It may seem like a no-brainer, but Dr. Ben-Shalom's work marrying neuro and plastic surgery is catching on.

"Everybody can do everything else the old-fashioned way, but I think and I really believe this is a very novel sub specialty that's going to take off and we'd like him to lead it," Lenox Hill Hospital Neurosurgery Chair Doctor David Langer said.

Tucker's scars are healing and he said he's training for the NYC marathon later this year, just as he was before he fell.

With a reinforced skull, and sense of optimism, he said he hopes to motivate others who may find themselves with challenging recoveries.

"It does come, it doesn't matter how long it takes but it does take that mindset," Tucker said. "You have to keep moving."

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