Top Neurosurgeon Brings Expertise and Experience to the Quad Cities
The first cranial neurosurgeries ever performed in the Quad City region took place
recently at Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC). The two successful surgeries—
Ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunting procedures—were performed by accomplished
neurosurgeon, Harvey G. Thomas, MD, FRCFC, who joined YRMC six months ago.
“There is a need in the community for VP shunting,” Dr. Thomas said. “Now that this
important service is available here, people who require it can remain close to home with support
from family and friends.”
VP Shunting Surgery Performed at YRMC
VP shunting is performed to relieve pressure on the brain due to surplus cerebrospinal
fluid, which may occur in people suffering from dementia, brain tumors or other conditions. This
excess fluid can cause people to suffer from stroke-like symptoms. VP shunting re-routes the
fluid, relieving the pressure on the brain and alleviating the patient’s symptoms.
During a VP shunting surgery, Dr. Thomas creates a small opening in the patient’s skull.
He then inserts reed-thin tubing and directs it to the patient’s abdominal cavity. Dr. Thomas also
places a dime-sized pressure valve under the skin behind the patient’s right ear. The tubing and valve together re-direct the fluid away from the brain to the abdomen where it can be reabsorbed
into the body. The pressure valve is programmable and may be adjusted—opened for additional
flow or closed tighter—even after the surgery by using a computer with specially designed
software. The amount of cerebrospinal fluid around the brain is measured during CT scans of the
patient’s head approximately four weeks after surgery and again six weeks post-surgery.
“A build-up of cerebrospinal fluid on the brain can cause forgetfulness, lack of
concentration, problems walking and even incontinence,” said Dr. Thomas. “This procedure can
relieve those symptoms for many people. And now, folks who need VP shunting don’t have to
travel outside of our community for it.”
YRMC Prepares for VP Shunting
Before YRMC’s first VP shunting surgery, the hospital diligently prepared for the
surgery by providing training for its nursing staff and purchasing special equipment for the
“VP shunting is the foundation for the hospital's entire Intracranial Neurosurgery
program,” said Diane Drexler, RN, BSN, MBA, FACHE, YRMC’s Chief Nursing Officer. “The
efforts we took to prepare for this surgery have established a strong foundation for the program
YRMC’s nursing staff participated in classroom sessions led by Dr. Thomas and
Physician Assistant Jeremy Platt, PA, PA-C. During these sessions, Dr. Thomas and Platt
highlighted the role of the nursing team before, during and after VP shunting surgery. YRMC
nurses also visited another hospital as part of their training program to prepare for VP shunting
surgeries. From the pre-admission work the nursing staff pursues with patients, through surgery
and recovery, YRMC’s nursing team was prepared to care for neurosurgical patients.
“Dr. Thomas has a great relationship with the nursing team,” Drexler said. “They know
both Dr. Thomas and Jeremy are available to them as resources. This is so critical to a successful
YRMC Launches Neurosurgery Program
Building the Neurosurgery program has been a collaborative effort between YRMC’s
leadership—the executive team and its Board of Trustees—and Dr. Thomas.
“Every decision about the Neurosurgery program has been made with our community and
patients in mind,” said Tim Barnett, YRMC’s President and CEO. “We are extremely pleased the
program includes Dr. Thomas, who is an exceptional neurosurgeon, and a great addition to our
Dr. Thomas, who is affiliated with YRMC PhysicianCare, came to the Quad Cities from
the Phoenix-area, where he helped found Arizona Spine and Joint Hospital. He also served as
that hospital’s Chairman of the Board. Before that, Dr. Thomas was Surgery Department Chair at
Chandler Regional Medical Center. Dr. Thomas is board certified as a neurosurgeon by the
American Board of Neurological Surgeons. In 2010, he was selected as a “Top Doc” by Phoenix