Why travel to Pittsburgh for neurosurgery.

Chris Colvin and his family live in Greenville, S.C., hundreds of miles from Pittsburgh. But when he needed care for a life-threatening cancerous tumor, distance was no object.

After his diagnosis, Chris searched far and wide for expert care and landed at the UPMC Department of Neurosurgery. There, neurosurgeon Paul A. Gardner, MD, successfully removed the tumor, saving Chris’ life.

Chris isn’t alone — each year, tens of thousands of patients from across the globe come to UPMC for lifesaving care. The Department of Neurosurgery treats many patients who come from many miles away.

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Chris’ Story: Faith and Trust

In late summer and early fall 2020, Chris began experiencing daily headaches. He tried various medications, but they didn’t fix the problem.

On an anniversary trip with his wife Megan in September 2020, he had trouble speaking. He realized he didn’t have the full use of his tongue.

Chris and Megan visited their local emergency department. Doctors diagnosed him with chondrosarcoma — a rare, aggressive cancerous tumor at the base of his skull. The tumor was in a high-risk area, near the cranial nerves and his carotid artery.

It was important for Chris to find a surgeon with the expertise to safely and successfully remove the tumor. After weeks of searching, Chris and Megan came upon UPMC and Dr. Gardner, a nationally renowned surgeon who specializes in skull base tumors.

“We first met with him virtually, and he explained the procedure and talked about the risks,” Chris says. “After that appointment, we knew that Dr. Gardner and UPMC were where we needed to be.”

Chris and Megan made the long trip to Pittsburgh for his November 2020 procedure. They met Dr. Gardner and the rest of his surgical team, including Carl Snyderman, MD, a UPMC otolaryngologist.

To remove the tumor, Dr. Gardner used the Endoscopic Endonasal Approach (EEA) — a procedure he helped pioneer. He removed the tumor through Chris’ nose and sinuses after Dr. Snyderman cleared a path.

`The procedure took nine hours, but it was successful. Dr. Gardner removed the entire tumor.

“It was the best news,” Chris says. “Megan and I were elated.”

Three years after his surgery, Chris remains tumor-free. He and Megan live in Greenville, but he still sees Dr. Gardner through telemedicine. He is thankful for the expert care he received.

“We had to rely a lot on our faith in God when we faced this trial,” Chris says. “And we trusted Dr. Gardner and his team.”

Why People Travel to UPMC for Neurological Care

Chris is one of many patients who travel to the UPMC Neurological Institute each year for expert neurosurgical care. UPMC is a national leader in clinical care, treatment, and research for conditions of the brain, nerves, spinal cord, and skull base. U.S. News & World Report ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the top hospitals in the country for neurology and neurosurgery.

Here’s just some of what we provide:

  • A full range of surgical options. UPMC is one of the few centers in the United States to offer a full array of surgical treatment options for neurological conditions. That allows us to take on even the most challenging cases, providing hope for patients with hard-to-treat conditions.
  • Advanced techniques. At UPMC, we have pioneered some of the world’s most advanced surgical techniques. Those include minimally invasive techniques, stereotactic radiosurgery, and specialized procedures like the EEA. Our surgeons have years of experience in performing these procedures.
  • Cutting-edge research. We are national leaders in neurological research. This allows us to develop and teach the most advanced care approaches and treatment techniques and bring them to the bedside.
  • Experienced subspecialists. The UPMC Department of Neurosurgery is the largest academic neurosurgical department in the U.S. This allows our experts to subspecialize in caring for specific conditions, providing patients with the highest level of expertise.
  • Individualized care. Our multidisciplinary team treats each case on an individualized basis. We will evaluate your specific case and work together to determine a treatment plan to provide you with the best outcome.
  • Renowned specialty care. The UPMC Neurological Institute is home to some of the country’s most renowned specialty clinics. The UPMC Comprehensive Epilepsy Center is a level 4 epilepsy center — the highest ranking possible from the National Association of Epilepsy Centers (NAEC). The UPMC Pituitary Center of Excellence has treated the most complex pituitary and skull base tumors for over 25 years. And that’s just to name two.

Patients traveling to Pittsburgh for care at the UPMC Neurological Institute have access to a care concierge. The concierge helps coordinate care with your referring provider, schedule appointments, arrange travel, and more.

We also partner with Family House to provide accommodations for out-of-town patients. Complimentary amenities include weekday breakfasts, travel to and from your medical appointments, and more.

Visit our website for more information on how UPMC provides world-class care for our traveling patients.

About Neurosurgery

The UPMC Department of Neurosurgery is the largest academic neurosurgical provider in the United States. We treat conditions of the brain, skull base, spine, and nerves, including the most complex disorders. We perform more than 11,000 procedures each year, making our team one of the most experienced in the world. Whether your condition requires surgery or not, we strive to provide the most advanced, complete care possible. Our surgeons are developing new techniques and tools, including minimally invasive treatments. Find an expert near you.