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Spotlight: Neurosurgeon Andy Grande, MD, conducts research to help transform stroke treatments

University of Minnesota Health Neurosurgeon Andrew Grande, MD, hopes his research will transform treatment and recovery for stroke patients.
University of Minnesota Health Neurosurgeon Andrew Grande, MD, hopes his research will transform treatment and recovery for stroke patients.

For Neurosurgeon Andy Grande, MD, work really is a matter of life and death.

Grande, who specializes in the treatment of brain aneurysms, vascular malformations and a form of facial pain called trigeminal neuralgia, sees many patients with problems that range from carotid artery stenosis to Moyamoya disease. He is also passionate about stroke care, and conducts medical research he hopes could transform treatment and recovery for stroke patients.

We spoke with Grande about his role within University of Minnesota Health and his vision for neurosurgical care.

Why are you passionate about your profession?
We deal with incredibly difficult problems, ranging from brain tumors to head trauma to blood in the head. We see very sick patients in the ICU, perform very complex and meticulous surgeries and also visit patients in clinic. In many instances, it is a matter of life or death. At times, our actions may save someone’s life. Sometimes, there is nothing more we can do despite our best efforts. During those difficult situations, we do our best to listen to a patient’s family and help guide them through tragedy. It is easier to embrace these challenges because we really get to know our patients and are often invited into their lives. At the end of the day, making a difference in patients’ lives is my favorite aspect of what I do.

Describe your vision for M Health neurosurgery, focusing on stroke/vascular care, tumor care and spinal care. 
Health care is changing and today we are able to make a greater impact on our patients’ outcomes with specialized, multidisciplinary and team-based care. University of Minnesota Health is uniquely poised to do this because we are composed of nearly 1,000 physicians, many of whom have specific specialties. This environment fosters greater collaboration between specialists—many of whom are focused on specific diseases or conditions. On top of that, researchers at the University of Minnesota are constantly developing innovative treatments and cures. Within our department, our vision is to continue developing disease-based centers of care. These centers must address disease prevention, acute care and long-term care, and they must include all the physicians, specialists and care providers needed for the successful treatment of a specific disease. Medical research is also interwoven with clinical care at all levels.

Learn more about the Stroke Center at University of Minnesota Medical Center.

How have neurosurgical stroke treatments advanced in recent years, and your role in helping patients achieve better outcomes?
Stroke patients need rapid medical care. Over the last 15 years, we have increased the available treatment window for stroke patients from 3 to 4.5 hours, which is important for those patients who are unable get to a hospital quickly. In the last five years, devices have been developed that can remove a clot directly from a blood vessel. These are now the mainstay of treatment. I do believe we are getting better at stroke treatment, but I believe we have a very long way to go, especially in the areas of stroke prevention and education and recovery following a stroke. As a member of the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance Board, I am passionate about increasing awareness. We have a long road left to travel before we will make a meaningful impact on stroke in our community.

Describe your research interests and the potential they have to translate into better outcomes for stroke patients?
When a patient suffers a stroke, neurons in various areas of the brain die, severing the nerve networks responsible for communicating to our bodies. My laboratory is focused on transforming reactive cells around the area of a stroke into new neurons for the brain. Ultimately, our goal is to regenerate the same type of neurons lost during a stroke, so they can be integrated into the existing nerve networks in the brain. This will help our patients have a functional recovery.

What do you respect about the M Health community?
All the health professionals in the M Health community are truly committed to excellence in care and pushing it to the next level. There are many hard days, and many of my colleagues could choose to work elsewhere, but they choose to stay because they are committed to improving the delivery of health care.