- Associated Press - Monday, September 1, 2014

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) - Being No. 1 isn’t always best, and Washington Regional Medical Center hopes to help knock Arkansas off the top of the stroke mortality list.

The medical system opened the Northwest Arkansas Neuroscience Institute on Aug. 1 and introduced three neurosurgeons to the community during a reception later this month.

“This disease process is a huge financial burden on the economy, both locally and nationally,” said Dr. Mayshan Ghiassi.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports Arkansas leads the country with a stroke death rate of 53.77 per 100,000 people, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported (http://bit.ly/1qnV4Tk ). The national rate is 39.13.

Ghiassi and his brother, Dr. Mahan Ghiassi, joined the hospital’s staff Aug. 1. They are trained in a specialized and growing field called endovascular neurosurgery and came from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville.

Endovascular neurosurgery uses catheter technology and radiological imaging to provide minimally invasive treatment choices for illness including stroke and cerebral aneurysm.

Mahan Ghiassi said the hospital’s new hybrid operating suite helped draw them to Fayetteville. The operating room can be used for endovascular and conventional neurological surgeries. A bed that can be quickly converted from minimally invasive to open surgery and CT scans that can be done on the table are two of the room’s special features, he said.

Bill Bradley, Washington Regional president and chief executive officer, called the operating suite “high-tech” and “space age.”

The surgical suite is on 1,545 square feet above the hospital’s emergency room. Bradley said it took about 18 months for the $7 million project to go from concept to completion. He said construction and equipment each cost about $3.5 million.

Washington Regional paid for the bulk of the project when it sold Brookstone Assisted Living and Fayetteville City Hospital in 2013. The medical center’s auxiliary also made a $250,000 pledge for the project and paid its first $50,000 installment in February.

Mahan Ghiassi said other factors contributing to their decision to move to Arkansas were a desire to keep the family together, to move somewhere they wanted to raise their families and the strong support network at the hospital.

Dr. John Barr, also from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, also started at the hospital Aug. 1. The trio of surgeons join Drs. Larry Armstrong and Brandon Evans at the Neuroscience Institute.

“This is world-class neurosurgery,” Armstrong said about procedures they can do in the new operating suite. “This is done in less than 40 places worldwide.”

Armstrong is Washington Regional’s chief of neurological surgery and has been in Northwest Arkansas for 10 years.

“Now we can do everything right here,” he said.

Previously, the hospital would send patients requiring specialized neurological surgery to hospitals out of the area such as Little Rock.

“In our business, time is brain,” Mayshan Ghiassi said as he talked about the ability to remove blood clots in the brain caused by stroke at the hospital.

Armstrong said Washington Regional is starting to receive stroke patients from area hospitals.

The only other fellowship trained endovascular neurosurgeon in Arkansas is Dr. Adib Abla at the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock.

“He treats the most sensitive and complicated cases, including brain aneurysms, which sometimes can be treated by endovascular coiling to seal the aneurysm but which sometimes require surgery,” said Dr. J.D. Day, chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery in the UAMS College of Medicine.

The Northwest Arkansas Neuroscience Institute has treated five stroke patients in the new suite and Bradley said there was a time last week when all five neurosurgeons were in the emergency room with patients at the same time.

“I’m excited about where this is going to lead us,” he said.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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