Michael T. Stechison, MD, PhD, FRCS(C), FACS, FAANS
Michael T. Stechison, MD, PhD, FRCS(C), FACS, FAANS, is an Atlanta neurosurgeon has served as Medical Director of the Brain and Spine Institute at Gwinnett Medical Center since 2008, and Medical Director of Neuroscience through July 1, 2016. He previously founded Greater Atlanta Neurosurgery, PC based at Emory Hospital Midtown and has been Neurosurgical Director, Center for Cranial Base Surgery at University of Pittsburgh. He has special surgical expertise in brain tumors, trigeminal neuralgia and cranial nerve disorders.
Dr. Stechison has over 40 years experience in practicing neurosurgery. He specializes in adult neurosurgery with a particular focus on the management of brain tumors, trigeminal neuralgia, hemifacial spasm, as well as spinal surgery including minimally invasive and large complex instrumentation.
Dr. Stechison completed his medical training at the University of Toronto. Following this he completed his neurosurgical training at the University of Toronto under the chairmanship of Dr. Alan Hudson and subsequently Dr. Charles Tator. He was the first trainee in the program to complete a Ph.D. during his neurosurgery residency training. Dr. Stechison's PhD. was in the field of experimental neuroanatomy and neurophysiology under the supervision of Dr. Jean A. Saint-Cyr. His thesis focused on brainstem neuroanatomy and neurophysiology pertaining to the vestibular system, cervical sensory information and eye movement control.
Dr. Stechison began the practice of Neurosurgery by moving to the United States and taking a position as Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery and as Assistant Professor of Cell Biology, Neurobiology, and Anatomy at The Ohio State University in 1989. He directed a basic science lab and established the first Intraoperative Neurophysiological Monitoring laboratory at Ohio State University. This was a natural evolution in his application of neurophysiological techniques from bench to bedside. Through this laboratory he was able to implement methods of monitoring the nervous system function while patients were under general anesthesia in order to make their surgeries safer. Dr. Stechison explained that "in essence this provides an early warning system that can allow a neurosurgeon to be aware that a certain manipulation of a structure in the brain or the spinal cord might be associated with a potential injury if continued. " In this way, the surgeon can alter his or her technique and potentially avoid such neurological complications postoperatively. Dr. Stechison developed this laboratory at Ohio State University, and there he developed and described some unique techniques which he published, including intraopaerative mapping of the trigeminal nerve root at the brainstem. This allowed the precise mapping of the nerve so lesions could be made in a location of the nerve corresponding to the portion of the face in which a patient was having symptoms. Dr. Stechison described a method for monitoring the vagus nerve using electrodes placed in the vocal cords and in the anesthesia breathing tube used during surgery. He also refined and published the methods and limitations of the modality of trigeminal evoked potential monitoring.
Dr. Stechison's interest in anatomy continued to develop and be applied to the surgery of complex tumors at the base of the skull. In 1993 Dr. Stechison was offered the position of Neurosurgical Director of the Center for Cranial Base Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, succeeding Dr. Laligam Sekhar. This was the first unit of its kind in the world that combined the expertise of multiple disciplines such as ENT surgeons, neuro-otologists, plastic surgeons, ophthalmologists, and oral maxillo-facial surgeons who joined forces in innovative approaches to previously inoperable areas and tumors arising from the skull base. This Center served an international clientele and was a large contributor to technical methods and practice that strongly influenced the evolution of the treatment of skull base tumors all over the world. While there Dr. Stechison's practice was exclusively limited to brain tumors including a large volume of surgery of acoustic neuromas, meningiomas, cranial nerve tumors, pituitary tumors, malignant tumors of the brain, tumors of bone, and malignant head and neck and sinus tumors. Leading a team of specialists from multiple allied surgical disciplines allowed the merging of expertise of different technical approaches allowing Dr. Stechison to take away the knowledge of new and different techniques to benefit his patients. Dr. Stechison has taken these methods and perspectives and has incorporated them into his brain tumor practice later in his career in private practice and developing hospital programs at other centers. Today, Dr. Stechison still believes in the synergy of different specialties combining forces to optimize outcomes in certain types of surgery, for instance, his frequent collaboration in acoustic neuroma surgery with Dr. Bhansali, a neuro-otologist.
While on the Faculty at the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Stechison continued his interest in trigeminal neuralgia, hemifacial spasm, and microvascular compression syndromes. Dr. Stechison was privileged to have the late Dr. Peter Jannetta as his senior partner. He was the pioneer that popularized the operation of posterior fossa microvascular decompression for the treatment of trigeminal neuralgia, as well as hemifacial spasm. The University of Pittsburgh treated an enormous number of national and international patients owing to Dr. Jannetta's pioneering force in this area. Dr. Stechison's early interest in trigeminal neuralgia and facial pain benefitted by his move to Pittsburgh. While there, Dr. Stechison further refined his technical expertise in the rich milieu of the high volume of international patients that came to the center because of Dr. Jannetta's reputation as a pioneer in this field. Dr. Stechison continued work on his earlier studies he began in the interaoperative monitoring of cranial nerve function during surgery. While doing this work at the University of Pittsburgh Dr. Stechison enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate with Dr. Aage Moller who was a true pioneer in the area of intraoperative neurophysiological monitoring. Dr. Stechison published numerous articles alone as well as with his colleagues on new methods in intraoperative neurophysiological monitoring of cranial nerves, including methods for intraoperative mapping of the topography of the trigeminal nerve root at the brainstem, refinements in the monitoring of the function of the trigeminal nerve, monitoring the vagus nerve through special electrodes incorporated into the anesthesia breathing tube, or through electrodes placed directly in the vocal folds.
Dr. Stechison has published extensively during his academic career. He has travelled and lectured internationally. In his early career he made numerous innovations in the field of neurosurgery including the description of a blood-based glue recipe made from a patients own blood for use as a sealant prior to the commercial availability of products. He has taught students, neurosurgery residents, and been involved as a leader in international and national meetings. He was a charter member of the North American Skull Base Society and has previously served as course director of that society's practical course for surgeons. He was an early proponent in the incorporation of neurophysiological monitoring into brain and spinal neurosurgery to make it safer and has lectured and taught extensively in this area in the past. He was an early member in the American Society of Neurophysiological Monitoring and previous contributor to numerous academic events in this field.
Dr. Stechison came to Georgia in 1995 and started private practice. He has continued to focus on brain tumors and cranial nerve disorders as well as the full spectrum of general neurosurgical care, including minimally invasive and complex spinal surgery.
In 2008 Dr. Stechison transformed his practice, Greater Atlanta Neurosurgery, PC based at Emory University Hospital Midtown, into a hospital-based practice called the Brain and Spine Institute at Gwinnett Medical Center. Dr. Stechison served as the Medical Director of Neuroscience at Gwinnett Medical Center until July 1, 2016. During his tenure there he directed and oversaw expansion of neuroscience services, and he facilitated acquisition of new technologies such as the O-arm and facilitated the expansion of the intraoperative image-guided surgery resources. During his time at Gwinnett a new neuroscience unit was opened, and the Brain and Spine Institute grew to a peak number of 4 neurosurgeons. This practice involved a considerable volume of trauma-related care including traumatic brain injuries as well as spinal trauma serving the needs of the busy emergency room and trauma center. While practicing there, Dr. Stechison also cared for a large number of general neurosurgical conditions including a large population of patients with degenerative spinal conditions. He continued to keep a focus on brain tumors, and facilitated the development of a LINAC-based stereotactic radiosurgery program in conjunction with Dr. Gary Stillwagon, radiation oncologist. This allowed for the first time patients in the Gwinnett system to have radiosurgery of their brain tumor as an option, and to be performed locally. In addition, Dr. Stechison was able to offer the patients who required radiosurgery as an adjuvant therapy to microsurgery a treatment that combined the expertise of the neurosurgeon who performed the microsurgery who was also involved in the treatment planning for the subsequent adjuvant radiosurgery.
In October 2016, Dr. Stechison founded Stechison Neurosurgery Atlanta, LLC. The mission of this practice is personal care and attention to the patient within the framework of independence from hospital ownership or management. This will ensure that the needs of the patients always come first. The practice is available to all of Dr. Stechison's Brain and Spine Institute patients who wish to continue their care with him, as well as to all new patients who seek individual neurosurgical care that is centered on the patient. In November 2018, Dr. Stechison's practice aligned with Hospital Corporation of America and his office location moved to Piedmont Hospital Eastside, 1700 Tree Lane, Suite 470, Snellville, GA 30078. Dr. Stechison also provides neurosurgical services at Northside Hospital - Atlanta and Northside Hospital - Gwinnett.
Stechison Neurosurgery Atlanta, LLC, will continue to focus on surgical technical excellence as well as individualized patient-centered care. As always a philosophy of conservatism will be applied to spinal disorders reflecting Dr. Stechison's philosophy that "the best spinal operation you can have is the one you can avoid, and the second best one is the smallest one that allows you a reasonable chance of durable relief from your complaint." Having practiced in Georgia since 1995, Dr. Stechison is well-known for his reputation of excellent care and outcomes. His extensive relationships with other specialists can ensure that all details of patient care can be addressed whether they involve needing a medical neuro-oncologist, radiation oncologist, neuro-otologist, medical neurologist, or other specialist.
A question brain tumor patients' families frequently ask Dr. Stechison is "what would you do in this medical situation if the patient were your mother?" His response is always that "any patient is no different to me than my own mother because her outcome is what my reputation is based on." Dr. Stechison believes that a spinal fusion, while having the potential to be very beneficial, is something unnatural that should be avoided if possible.
Dr. Stechison is a veteran marathon runner, and as an avid athlete he prizes the ability of the body to heal itself. He stresses conservative treatment whenever possible in spinal conditions including patience, physical therapy, weight loss, and anti-inflammatories. Because of his own ongoing athletic pursuits, Dr. Stechison believes athletes should be treated whenever possible in a way that facilitates their return to their sport. He believes that certain surgical technical decisions should be made that take an athlete's unique sports interests into consideration. Dr. Stechison and his team frequently spend considerable time reviewing specific exercises and activities that can safely be done within an appropriate timetable.
Finally, Dr. Stechison believes that to get well one needs to believe in his or her surgeon and have a positive attitude. He says, "Surgery is a team sport, and we all have to be on the same team." This practice stresses patient education. The philosophy in this practice is to be certain all patient questions are answered and that the patient understands all options which may including non-surgical options. This promotes informed decision-making regarding neurosurgical care.
Stechison Neurosurgery Atlanta, LLC, wants our patients to have the best outcome possible and feel confidant in choosing the captain of their team.