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What is on your mind?

Dr. Dorothea Altschul, neurointerventionalist and part of the Neurosurgeons of New Jersey team, recently submitted an abstract addressing anxiety and depression in regards to cerebrovascular procedures. Healthcare professionals are becoming increasingly interested in the link between a patient’s mental and physical health, and Dr. Altschul’s work is examining this connection in the context of treatment for cerebrovascular events and how it affects patients’ overall wellbeing.

Many patients don’t realize that their healthcare providers also engage in extracurricular research and academic pursuits, particularly if the practice has ties to an educational institute. When she is not treating patients, Dr. Altschul is educating, making discoveries and helping to improve herself and work, her community and the healthcare industry as a whole. This often leads to the publication of academic papers and presentations at educational conferences.

Your Procedure May Affect Your Mental Health

The goal of Dr. Altschul’s study was to determine whether anxiety and depression influence a patient’s recovery following a procedure for a cerebrovascular anomaly. To evaluate the potential link, Dr. Altschul and her team examined the experiences of patients who had procedures performed at Valley Hospital between June 2014 and June 2017.

During this three-year period, every patient underwent a cerebrovascular procedure as well as a follow-up appointment 30 days later to assess their physical health, mental health and any disability. The results of these 30-day follow-ups were compared to determine if there were any differences between the recovery experiences of patients who self-reported anxiety or depression and those who did not.

Dr. Altschul works with a team of clinical research coordinators who are supported through the Valley Hospital Foundation. The clinical research coordinators are instrumental to collecting the data and entering them into a database. The Valley Hospital also participates in national neurosurgical outcomes databases. Part of the team is also a statistician who analyses the data.

The study found that patients who self-reported anxiety or depression had worse mental health evaluation scores at the 30-day follow-up than the general population of patients. Though these disappeared by the six-month follow-up, the study brings awareness to the fact that patients who are already depressed or anxious may benefit from additional interventions prior to treatment to address the entire spectrum of their healthcare needs.

Sharing This Information with Other Health Professionals

The next step in this project comes if Dr. Altschul’s abstract is accepted, in which case Lauren Lombardo (clinical research coordinator), who is being mentored by Dr. Altschul,  will present the findings at the 2018 American Academy of Neurology (AAN) annual meeting in Los Angeles, California, from April 21-27. This is the 70th annual convention of neurology professionals from around the world, who come together to share their research, learn and network with others.

Dedicated to Advancement

Dr. Altschul’s dedication to improving both herself and the entire field of neurology is just one example of how many healthcare professionals participate in activities outside of the operating room. As you get to know your doctors better, you may come to learn they are respected lecturers, have published articles in peer-reviewed journals or have even developed unique treatment protocols used by other professionals.

Part of being an excellent clinician includes having a thirst for knowledge and a desire to help solve problems that affect all patients. Dr. Altschul’s research on the impact of cerebrovascular procedures on mental health, particularly in patients already experiencing anxiety or depression, is a step in the direction of improving patient care for all patients, taking into account the realms of mental and physical health in a unified approach.