Branden J. Cord, MD, PhD, is a neurosurgeon who specializes in treating patients with cerebrovascular disorders, including brain aneurysms, strokes, narrowed blood vessels between the heart and the brain (carotid stenosis), normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH), and abnormal connections between arteries and veins in the membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord (dural arteriovenous fistulas). He also performs a procedure called kyphoplasty, which uses minimally invasive surgery to fix damaged vertebrae or spinal fractures.
“I perform a gamut of general neurosurgery procedures, but my focus is on endovascular neurosurgery, which means treating different conditions through the blood vessels,” Dr. Cord says.
Growing up, Dr. Cord’s curiosity led him to tinker in the shop with his father, a car mechanic, and tag along with his mother, a respiratory therapist, during her rounds at the local hospital. Those experiences, combined with being a natural caretaker in his large family, led Dr. Cord to medicine. One of six children, he often stayed home from school to care for his younger siblings, who suffered from allergies and asthma.
“One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is seeing the impact it has on the patient and their family,” he says. “Some patients may come in not able to speak and in 10 minutes or so, I can pull a clot out, and they are again moving and speaking again—it’s a life-changing event for them.”
Dr. Cord also appreciates his role in helping patients who have unruptured brain aneurysms—a bulging or ballooning in the wall of a blood vessel—that have been found accidently through brain imaging scans given for other reasons. “I enjoy walking patients through the different options to treat aneurysms,” he says.
Brain aneurysms are also one of the subjects of Dr. Cord’s research. In order to decide which ones to treat and which to leave alone, Dr. Cord investigates patterns in the qualities of aneurysms using high-resolution magnetic resonance vessel wall imaging to predict which will rupture and which will not. “We’re looking at this in a rigorous way to nail down [the qualities] to help us decide whether or not to operate on a patient in the hopes of making things safer and more efficient,” he says.