by Jennifer Delliskave

It’s no secret that Idahoans love to work hard and play hard, especially in the great outdoors. It’s also no secret that risk is involved in these activities, which means that some people will inevitably end up in the emergency room, possibly with a spine or brain injury. Those patients often end up at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center (EIRMC).

How Trauma Care Works at EIRMC

As a Level II Trauma Center, EIRMC has a trauma OR suite available at all times, with a trauma surgeon available 24/7 and at the hospital within 15 minutes of patient arrival. Additionally, EIRMC is required to have an orthopedic surgeon and neurosurgeon available within 30 minutes for emergency procedures.  

One of those neurosurgeons is Dr. Abraham Schlauderaff, who is board-certified and specially trained in spine and brain surgery. He and his partner Brandon Kelly handle most of the spine and brain trauma cases at EIRMC.

“I think I’ve seen just about everything come through the ER: people who’ve been bucked off a horse or bull, been in a car or ATV accident, fallen while hiking or rock climbing. People in Idaho love adventure, and some of them get injured,” says Dr. Schlauderaff. “It is critical that they are seen and evaluated as soon as possible, and the trauma team at EIRMC is great at that.”

Spotlight on Dr. Schlauderaff’s Expertise

When imaging in the ER shows that a patient has a dislocated or fractured vertebra in the neck or back, Dr. Schlauderaff recommends the necessary treatment. Minor injuries may only need external support with a brace. More serious fractures require surgery, either open or minimally invasive.

“If the situation is right, I can perform a percutaneous vertebral stabilization to prevent the disc from slipping or to prevent damage to the spinal cord,” explains Dr. Schlauderaff. “This is a minimally invasive procedure where I use small incisions to access the spine and then attach metal rods and plates to the vertebrae. The plates maintain normal alignment of the spine and remain in place while the fractures heal. Six to nine months later, the hardware can be removed.”

Advancements in Neurosurgery

The minimally invasive procedures Dr. Schlauderaff performs have many advantages for patients who have already been through a traumatic accident. Smaller surgical incisions cause less damage to muscle and bone, preserve more movement, and lead to faster recovery.

“To me, the best thing about minimally invasive surgery is quick recovery. Patients feel better quicker, heal quicker, get up and moving sooner, get home faster, and get into rehab sooner” he says.

Severe spine fractures may require more invasive techniques like replacing a vertebra with a metal cage, which is an open surgery that Dr. Schlauderaff has a lot of experience with. 

Traumatic brain injuries have causes similar to those of spine injuries: falls, motor vehicle collisions, and blunt force trauma. Like spine fractures, the urgency is getting patients imaged and into surgery quickly if needed. Small brain bleeds may just require monitoring and rest. Larger bleeds or swelling are neurosurgical emergencies requiring urgent decompression, which can be accomplished through one of several types of surgery.

As Dr. Schlauderaff explains, “At worst, it may be necessary to remove part of the skull.  At the other end of the spectrum, I may need to place a drain or an intracranial pressure monitor. The drains and monitors can be placed through minimally invasive surgery. Whether the surgery is intense or minor, it can be done here, at EIRMC. Our ICU team is great with these trauma patients.”

The Comprehensive Care Team at EIRMC

For both spine and brain injuries, rapid assessment and treatment can help prevent secondary injury and preserve neurological function. Through collaborating across specialties—neurosurgery, orthopedics, ICU, and rehab—the trauma team at EIRMC gives patients the best possible outcome after a major trauma.

Beyond the Article

Learn more about EIRMC’s trauma team

Schedule a consultation with Dr. Schlauderaff, or call East Falls Neurosurgery and Spine at (208) 522-7572.