BILLINGS – Billings is known for a strong medical corridor, access to medical procedures, new technology and treatments.
That now includes 3D technology that can help doctors see into and navigate the blood vessels in the brain.
The latest medical services don’t just entice future families to move here- they also bring some of the brightest minds to Montana to carry out that care.
One of the most recent additions to Billings Clinic is a biplane angiography suite, and with it, came neurosurgeon Dr. Vance Fredrickson.
Fredrickson is in a dual fellowship trained in neuroendovascular surgery, and cerebral vascular and skull base surgery.
His number one tool is a biplane suite. The biplane captures both a front-to-back and side-to-side X-ray of the skull. Contrast is injected into specific vessels in the brain so the surgeon can then see the X-ray video on a screen.
“We can move these planes around to get a perfect view to use to navigate the blood vessels,” said Fredrickson. “The blood vessels are very complicated, and they have a lot of loops and turns so you really need the X-ray video coming from two different planes.”
This technology at Billings Clinic is already getting good use as medical teams have used it for a long list of neurovascular procedures, including thrombectomies for stroke: “When a large vessel is blocked, leading to the brain or in the brain, we can actually go in with a little wire and catheter and suction that clot out or use a stent to pull the clot into a catheter, and that establishes blood flow.”
Just six months in, and Fredrickson says the biplane is already making a difference. “There are patients from all over the region that were getting sent out of state that never landed here,” he said, “and so, I think we have the potential to help several hundred patients a year with this technology.”
And Fredrickson says the Billings Clinic cerebral vascular program can back it up.
He said the team is made of fellowship-trained interventionalists, neurosurgeons, stroke neurologists, neuroradiologists, intensive care physicians and a team of five neuro hospitalists. “This is a really good service that really increases the safety of our patients and the safety of the patients in the region,” said Fredrickson.
Even though he’s been in Montana for a very short time, Fredrickson says he’s already in love. “I actually really like the cold and the snow.”
His path to get here, however, is about as complex as the blood vessels he works on. He started college at age 16, became an engineer, and designed power electric systems for Hewlett Packard for a year.
“I enjoyed it, but I was always interested in the human body and I saw a lot of similarities actually between engineering and various forms of surgery,” he said, “and so I thought I could parlay the engineering into medicine.”
As he did.