Mayo Clinic pediatric neurosurgeons use leading-edge technology and surgical approaches to help children with serious and complex conditions of the brain and spine. Team-based care

Pediatric neurosurgeons work together to help children with complex neurologic conditions.

Families who seek care for a child with a complex neurologic condition find the experts they need with Mayo Clinic Pediatric Neurosurgery and the Children's Center on Mayo Clinic's campus in Rochester, Minnesota. These specialists provide innovative, compassionate and comprehensive care that is focused on the child and family.

The pediatric neurosurgery team has extensive experience caring for children who have serious conditions of the nervous system for which surgery is the best treatment option. This team has access to the most advanced technologies and techniques, including minimally invasive surgery with endoscopy, fetal surgery, intraoperative MRI and a type of laser that uses heat to kill tumors (laser interstitial thermal therapy). Sometimes, the best treatment option is not surgical, and the team members will explain why and make the best recommendation for alternative therapy.

Team-based care for the whole child

Your child benefits from the multidisciplinary practice model used by Mayo Clinic Neurosurgery and Pediatric Neurosurgery. Your neurosurgeon consults with other specialists to provide exactly the care your child needs. The care team might include pediatric experts in anesthesiology, fetal and maternal medicine, neurology, hematology/oncology, urology, surgery, plastic surgery, otolaryngology, ophthalmology, pediatric rehabilitation, orthopedic surgery, and clinical genomics. Your care team works with you to develop a care plan based on your child's needs. This is what makes care at Mayo Clinic different: coordinated care and genuine collaboration.

Your child's team might also include nurse practitioners, physical and occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, patient educators, and child-life specialists.

Our pediatric neurosurgery team coordinates closely with other pediatric specialists to provide comprehensive services in the most efficient and effective way possible through a range of multidisciplinary clinics and specialty groups for children with complex neurologic conditions, including:

How parents find hope when a child faces brain surgery

We asked a Mayo Clinic expert: How do parents find hope when their child needs brain surgery?

Edward Ahn, M.D., Pediatric Neurosurgery: What parents have to know when their child goes through neurosurgery is that they have to be prepared to be surprised. This is one of the treats of doing what we do in dealing with people at this age: The brain is constantly developing, so if one part of the brain loses function, then oftentimes you'll see another part of the brain make up for that.

Try to learn from your child's outlook.

Dr. Ahn: The children are the ones who sometimes are the most hopeful of the whole family just because they're innocent … their outlook on things. They're not the ones to think, "Why me? Why is it that this happened to me, and woe is me." Instead, they just deal with it.

Remember there's so much growth ahead.

Dr. Ahn: My favorite part about working with the kids is watching them grow up. At the time of crisis, we do our intervention and that's what we are prepared and trained to do. But then when we see the child go on to life and we see them develop, we see them grow to be the child that they were meant to be. That's exciting to me.

Dr. Ahn has helped thousands of families with children diagnosed with brain tumors and other malformations.

Latest treatments and technology

Mayo Clinic has long been a destination for parents seeking answers for their children's serious and challenging neurologic conditions. The clinic's leading-edge technology and treatments for children with complex conditions include:

  • Surgical navigation with tractography. Using state-of-the-art MRI imaging, the surgical team can create maps of the brain that show them where important networks reside to avoid these critical pathways, making surgery as safe as possible.
  • Intraoperative magnetic resonance imaging (iMRI). With this procedure, your surgical team uses real-time MRI images of the brain during surgery for brain tumors, epilepsy and movement disorders. This allows maximal removal of tumor or epilepsy circuits in a real-time setting.
  • Minimally invasive surgery for craniosynostosis. Infants with fused cranial sutures can undergo endoscopic surgery through small incisions, rather than open surgery, which has been proved to reduce scarring, blood loss and length of hospital stay.
  • Heat to destroy diseased cells. With the technique laser interstitial thermal therapy (LITT), your surgeon is able to treat epilepsy and some brain tumors by making burns through pen-tip size holes in the scalp and skull rather than by performing an open brain surgery.
  • Fetal surgery for spina bifida. Pregnant mothers with the diagnosis of fetal myelomeningocele can undergo prenatal surgery to repair the defect, which has been shown to reduce the rate of shunt insertion for hydrocephalus and benefit leg function.
  • 3D anatomic modeling laboratories. Pediatric radiologists create 3D models of complex anatomy from CT scans and MRI scans in order to help surgeons plan their approach.

Innovative research focused on children with neurologic conditions

Our pediatric neurosurgical team has developed innovative treatment options and includes national and international leaders in pediatric surgery. Learn more about neurosurgery research at Mayo Clinic.

One new phase II clinical trial is studying the treatment of diffuse pontine glioma with convection enhanced delivery. It will look at the efficacy of convection enhanced delivery (CED) for delivering drugs to children with high-grade brainstem gliomas. This is a national, multi-institutional trial.

Our physician-scientists also have robust basic and translational research to better understand and treat malignant brain tumors in children, funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Talk with your doctor about whether an innovative clinical trial might be right for your child. In addition, Mayo Clinic is a member of the Children's Oncology Group. This large collaboration among hospitals gives children access to clinical trials that offer the latest in treatments for childhood cancers.

Top-ranked center

Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, is ranked among the Best Hospitals for neurology and neurosurgery and for heart and heart surgery by U.S. News & World Report. Mayo Clinic Children's Center in Rochester is ranked the No. 1 hospital in Minnesota, and the five-state region of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, according to U.S. News & World Report's 2023-2024 "Best Children's Hospitals" rankings.

June 13, 2024