Three Everyday Activities that Encourage Better Brain Health

March 15th, 2018

Since this week is international Brain Awareness Week, we wanted to share three easy, everyday ways to encourage better brain health. Our brains like many other parts of our bodies can improve from preventative care and benefit from exercise. However, training and caring for your brain may be one of your easiest health routines.


Our brain loves and needs social interaction; loneliness can possibly lead to a 65 percent increased risk of dementia, according to the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry. As humans, we need to talk, bond and make connections with new friends while maintaining and cherishing old friendships. The connection made between humans stimulates our emotional connectivity and intellectual capabilities. If there was ever a reason to plan a trip, go to dinner or even just give an old friend a call, it’s for your brain. Socialization improves your brain health and betters your life.

Photo Courtesy of Kelsey Chance, Unsplashed


Just like your body, your brain also benefits from a daily or weekly exercise regime. Exercise whether it’s swimming, running, jogging or even a brisk walk outside promotes the development of nerve cells and strengthens the number of synapses or brain cell connections. Additionally, regular physical exercise and a healthy diet are correlated with lower blood pressure, improved cholesterol levels, reduced stress levels and managed blood sugar levels. These factors not only improve brain health, but overall bodily health.

Photo Courtesy of Arek Adeoye, Unsplashed

Discover a New Love for Music

Music is a definitely a fun way to increase more brain activity. Participating in musical activities such as singing or playing an instrument is shown to activate both hemispheres of the brain at the same time, which is an incredibly healthy activity for your brain. The cross-communication that occurs in your brain while engaging in musical activity is believed to increase or encourage growth in the number of brain synapses. Singing on your commute, digging up your old band drum or trying to learn the piano are all activities that can enrich your life and deepen your brain’s health. While your musical activities may not sound great at the beginning, it’s an entertaining way to keep your brain young and potentially find a new passion.

Photo Courtesy of Sladjana Karvounis, Unsplashed

We at Kuether Brain and Spine hope these easy tips inspire you to live healthy for both your brain and your body. Happy Brain Awareness Week!

Entry Filed under: Brain,General Comments

Pushing it to the Limits: How Dangerous the Winter Games can be for the Brain and Spine

March 5th, 2018

Photo Courtesy of Johannes Waibel, Stock Snap

Every four years, the world stops and comes together to celebrate world-class athletes as they compete at the highest level. As spectators, it is awe-inspiring to watch the best of the best break records and win the highest prize: an Olympic gold medal.

The recently concluded Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang showcased some of the most dangerous sports in the world. Slope-style snowboarding, freestyle skiing, bobsled and skiing/snowboard half-pipe have some of the highest injury rates per athlete of all sports. Famed American winter athletes such as Lindsey Vonn and Shaun White expose themselves to potential injuries like broken bones, torn ligaments and cranial and spinal trauma in each training session and competition.

Two of America’s most decorated winter athletes, Lindsey Vonn and Shaun White, both have experienced several severe injuries in their careers including spinal and cranial trauma. Lindsey Vonn, Olympic skiing medalist, faced a major injury in her back with an acute facet (spinal joint) dysfunction before the 2017-2018 World Cup while Shaun White, Olympic half-pipe snowboard medalist, suffered a cranial and facial injury in October 2017 that required 62 stitches, hospitalization and concussion monitoring. Fortunately, Vonn and White recovered from these injuries and have sustained lengthy careers in their specialty sports.

However, there are countless of other athletes whose careers have ended short due to increasing pressures to perform trickier jumps and reach higher speeds even while still recovering from injury. The 2018 Winter Olympics emphasized how much Olympic athletes’ bodies endure throughout their careers and how each run down a slope or half-pipe is a chance for a potentially lethal accident.

Untreated spinal and/or cranial injuries can lead to severe and life-altering repercussions. For example, ex-snowboarder Kevin Pearce, experienced a career-ending crash, in which he sustained a traumatic brain injury that caused him to be in a coma for weeks. Two weeks prior to this horrible crash, Pearce suffered a separate incident. He showed the signs of head trauma including nausea, sluggishness and mental fogginess; yet, he continued to compete despite the warning signs. Pearce has since spoken out about the dangers of competing while injured with head trauma.

In most cases of traumatic spinal and brain injuries, immediate action is needed and more importantly, time for the body to heal is critical. World-class snowboarder, Iouri Podladtchikov, took the appropriate precautions for recovering from a traumatic brain injury by pulling out the 2018 Winter Olympics completely. Podladtchikov crashed in an event prior to the Olympics, which left bruising and contusions on his brain. He released a statement saying it would not be responsible or safe for him to compete. His decision not only saved his brain and body from more damage and long-term consequences, but set a positive example for other athletes to allow their bodies to heal after spinal and/or head trauma.

It was a pleasure to watch all of the Winter Olympic athletes compete and we, at Kuether Brain & Spine, wish to see all athletes succeed in their careers injury free. Additionally, for our local community members and athletes, Kuether Brain & Spine works to find the best solutions for each individual patient’s spinal and brain health needs. We strive to help our patients live a happy, healthy, active and pain-free life, just like we wish for all of the Olympians who competed.

Entry Filed under: Brain,General,Spine Comments

Signs You Need Endoscopic Carpal Tunnel Surgery

February 2nd, 2018

The tingling in your hand is worse today. Yesterday it seemed fine and you could shake off the numbness and get back to work. Icing your wrist and taking anti-inflammatories gave you some relief. You’ve tried wearing a wrist splint at night, but it’s uncomfortable and makes it tough to sleep. The good days have been fewer over the last month. You may have carpal tunnel syndrome.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

At the base of your hand is a narrow passageway, about onendoscopic-carpal-tunnel-surgerye inch wide, called the carpal tunnel. The floor and sides of the tunnel are made up of bones and the top of the tunnel is a strong ligament. Because it’s constructed of rigid bones and ligaments, the carpal tunnel can’t stretch or increase in size.

The carpal tunnel protects one of the main nerves of your hand. This nerve, the median nerve, provides feeling to your thumb, index, middle and ring fingers and controls some of the thumb muscles. The carpal tunnel also protects the nine tendons that bend your fingers and thumb.

If the tendons become irritated or you have swelling in this area from an injury or other conditions such as arthritis, then the space within the carpal tunnel can narrow and pinch the median nerve. This causes the numbness and pain you’ve been feeling in your hand and wrist.

Carpal Tunnel Symptoms

Most patients’ symptoms usually start out gradually. Here’s how a typical carpal tunnel case begins:

  • The numbness and tingling occurred occasionally. It started in your thumb, then shifted to your index and middle fingers.
  • Sometimes the numbness moves from your wrist up to your arm, when you’re holding a box, your phone or your tools. The tingling can wake you from a sound sleep.
  • Now you’re having trouble gripping and have been dropping objects. It’s more difficult to use the keyboard or cash register at work.

A visit to your doctor, who ordered an x-ray, MRI, or other tests to measure how well your median nerve is working, confirmed you have carpal tunnel syndrome. Your carpal tunnel symptoms have stopped responding to home treatment and your pain is getting worse. These may be signs you need endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery.

Endoscopic Carpal Tunnel Surgery Overview

When your symptoms, including the amount of pain and numbness in your hand, become severe, your doctor may recommend surgery to prevent irreversible damage. The surgical procedure is called a carpal tunnel release and its goal is to relieve the pressure on your median nerve.

During endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery, one or two incisions will enable your doctor to use a miniature camera called an endoscope to see inside your wrist and make a cut to divide the carpal ligament. This increases the size of the carpal tunnel and reduces pressure on your median nerve.

Most patients see symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome diminish after surgery. Recovery, particularly your ability to grip objects, will take time, so you may have to adjust your activities until your strength returns.

An Experienced, Exceptional Surgeon

Making the decision to have any surgery can be difficult. Working with an experienced surgeon you trust can ease your apprehension. Dr. Kuether has more than 15 years of experience performing minimally invasive procedures like endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery.  Contact him in Portland, Oregon at (503) 489-8111.

Entry Filed under: General,Surgery Comments

Common Types of Brain Surgery

December 31st, 2017

There’s a myriad of types of brain surgeries used to diagnose and treat a range of brain diseases and infections. Here’s an overview of some of the most common types of brain surgery and what they’re used to treat:

Brain Biopcommon types of brain surgerysy

A surgical biopsy is a simple procedure used to diagnose a number of conditions. The two most common forms of brain biopsies are a needle biopsy and an open biopsy. During needle biopsies, a neurosurgeon drills a small hole into the skull while a patient is under anesthesia. A piece of tissue is then removed with a large needle, usually a piece of a brain tumor. The other procedure, an open biopsy, is a far more invasive operation. A neurosurgeon removes a piece of the skull so that a brain tumor can be more easily accessed and potentially removed.

Reasons for a Brain Biopsy

These surgical biopsies are used to diagnose a number of brain diseases. The most common reason for brain biopsies is typically done to identify and diagnose brain cancers. In addition, these procedures can diagnose Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease or a number of brain infections.


Also called “ventric,” a ventriculostomy is a catheter-type device used to drain excess fluid from the brain. This procedure does not require general anesthesia and can be completed in about an hour. The ventric will stay in place as long as the neurosurgeon deems it necessary. The removal process only takes about a minute.

Reasons for Ventriculostomy

A ventric is used most often after brain surgery or a major brain injury. As brain fluid gathers and fills up in the brain, extreme pressure can build and slow blood flow, cutting off essential nutrients to the organ. A ventric drains this excess fluid to keep the brain healthy after major physical trauma.


During a craniotomy, a neurosurgeon makes an incision in the skull and creates a hole, known as a bone flap. This exposes the part of the brain that needs to be treated. After the procedure, the bone flap can be held in place with plates or wires. In the case of brain tumors or swelling, it can be left open. When a bone flap is left open, this is called a craniectomy.

Reasons for Craniotomy

There a multitude of purposes for a craniotomy. A neurosurgeon may want to clip off a brain aneurysm, drain fluid from a brain infection, or to remove large brain tumors.


A neuroendoscopy a minimally invasive procedure in which the neurosurgeon removes a brain tumor through small holes in the skull, mouth or nose. The benefits of this procedure over traditional surgical methods is that there’s less cutting involved, shortening both recovery time and pain intensity. A neuroendoscopy is completed with an endoscope, a small tool with an attached camera that allows the surgeon to navigate through the body and locate the tumor.

Reasons for a Neuroendoscopy

This procedure is done to remove smaller brain tumors and certain types of cysts. In addition, a brain biopsy can be completed during a neuroendoscopy.

Brain surgery in Portland OR

Dr. Todd Kuether at Kuether Brain and Spine is one of the most knowledgeable and professional neurosurgeons in the greater Portland area. Contact his office through this contact form for more information or to set up an appointment today.

Entry Filed under: Brain,Surgery Comments

Common Types of Spinal Surgery

December 28th, 2017

Common-spinal-surgeriesThe most common reason for spinal surgery is unresolved back pain, neck pain, leg and arm pain, and pain in the hands or feet due to compression of the spine from cervical or other spinal cord issues. Diseases of the spine, such as spinal stenosis, bulging discs, and sciatica, are also common reasons for an aching back, arms, or legs, and are included among the top reasons a spinal surgeon may recommend spinal surgery.


Four of the most common types of spinal surgery are outlined below. Each of these procedures is a minimally invasive, non-fusion, micro- or endoscopic type of spinal surgery, and all are relatively short operations that allow the patient to leave the surgical facility the same day (outpatient).

1. Microdiscectomy

Treats: Herniated discs, compressed nerves, and pain associated with herniated discs

How it’s Done: The smallest incision necessary and possible is made, and a tiny camera (endoscope) is inserted, to help tiny surgical tools remove part of the herniated disc that is pressing on spinal nerves and causing pain.

Fun Fact: Lumbar herniated discs are the top reason working adults in the United States undergo spinal surgery.

2. Posterior Cervical Microforaminotomy (PCMF)

Treats: Compressed nerves in neck and spine and associated discomfort, arm and hand pain due to cervical disc protrusion.

How it’s Done: Through a minimal incision in the back of the neck, excess scar tissue, bone, and disc material are cleared, and spinal nerve root exits (neural foramen) are enlarged.

Fun Fact: Cervical disc problems are one of the most common types of spinal problems requiring spinal surgery.

3. Laminectomy

Treats: Compressed spine.

How it’s Done: This surgery removes all or part of the thin, bony layer covering the top of the spinal cord (the lamina) to resolve bone spurs in the spine and to relieve pressure on the spinal cord and spinal nerves.

Fun Fact: A lamina can be flattened or arched and forms part of the covering of the spinal cord and spinal nerves.

4. Open Endoscopically Assisted Tubular Retractor Surgery

Treats: Herniated, protruding, extruded, or torn lumbar and cervical discs and associated nerve compression in spine

How it’s Done: A needle, dilator, guidewire, and thin tube are inserted into a vein to open a small 1/4-inch or seven-millimeter portal. In that space, an endoscope is inserted and tiny instruments are used to remove the small portion of the disc compressing the spine.

Fun Fact: Open endoscopically assisted tubular retractor surgery is not technically regarded as surgery; it is simply a small procedure.

Spine surgeons in Portland Oregon

Minimally invasive, outpatient, non-fusion, endoscopic and microscopic spinal surgery types are frequently the more hoped-for spinal surgery types of most neurosurgical patients. Patients and doctors prefer these types of spinal surgery, when they are an option, over open, inpatient, fusion, and macroscopic types of spinal surgery.

Spinal surgery is more commonplace than ever, so if you need spinal surgery, know that you are one of millions who have undergone the same type of procedure that has been recommended for you. Today’s spinal surgery types, even when not minimally invasive, are more safe and effective than ever. If you are experiencing unusual back, neck, arm, or leg pain, especially if this pain radiates to other parts of the body, you may wish to have your doctor refer you to a qualified neurosurgeon like Kuether Brain and Spine, so Dr. Kuether and his team can have you feeling better as soon as possible.

Entry Filed under: Spine,Surgery Comments

Back pain: How do I know if I need back surgery?

December 4th, 2017

BWhen back pain strikes, it's hard to know if you need back surgery or can treat with other methods.ack pain is one of those hidden injuries that can range anywhere from mild discomfort to debilitating pain. One of the most difficult things about managing back pain is knowing the difference between common ailments that can be treated with non-invasive methods, and serious back issues that require surgery. So how can you figure out if you need to see a’spine surgeon?

While surgeons often have differing opinions on what requires spinal surgery and what doesn’t, a general rule of thumb is simply if non-invasive methods don’t do the trick, spinal surgery is maybe the best option to give you some relief. Take a look below for things to try to relief your back pain before considering serious back surgery.


Entry Filed under: Spine Comments

What is Spinal Fusion Surgery?

August 3rd, 2017

The spine is the core of the human body. If you suffer from severe spine pain, you’ll have to do whatever it takes to recover as quickly as you can.

Sometimes, surgery tends to be a necessity for many people who put off their spinal issues for considerable amounts of time. One form of this surgery is spinal fusion.

Older woman with back pain


Entry Filed under: Spine,Surgery Comments

Top 5 Foods for a Healthy Brain

August 2nd, 2017

Blueberries have shown to be beneficial for brain health

Everyone thinks mental health, intellectual growth and brain functioning starts with things like books and crossword puzzles. While that’s certainly true, and those activities are great ways to boost cognitive abilities, researchers agree that the foundation for fluid mental activity starts with something else: the food you eat.

Even deeper, your diet affects not just cognitive functioning – it also affects your mood as well.


Entry Filed under: Brain Comments

What is a Brain Bleed?

July 21st, 2017

Neuron blood flow as brain circulation with cells flowing through veins and human circulatory system representing a medical health care symbol relating to stroke or neurology issues.A brain bleed is a type of stroke that occurs when an artery in a person’s brain bursts and causes bleeding throughout the surrounding cranial tissues.


Entry Filed under: Brain Comments

Can Brain Surgery Treat a Stroke?

July 7th, 2017

Neurosurgeons perform surgery to treat some strokes. Strokes can be treated in various ways. Doctors decide on a course of action by considering a patient’s age, health and the type of stroke they had. Every surgery has benefits and risks that doctors and patients need to weigh.

Woman holding brain model against head isolated on white background

Surgery to Treat an Ischemic Stroke

An ischemic stroke is when plaque, a fatty substance, accumulates and narrows arteries, cutting off the blood supply to the brain. This condition is called atherosclerosis. The plaque slows blood flow and can cause clots to form.

If the carotid arteries, those in the neck, are blocked, a surgeon may recommend surgery to clear the blockage. During this procedure, the neurosurgeon removes the plaque that has built up.

Ischemic strokes have other causes besides atherosclerosis. They include:

  • Heart attack
  • Injury to blood vessels in the neck
  • A problem with blood clotting
  • Heart valve problems
  • An irregular heartbeat

Ischemic strokes may be one of two types:

  1. Thrombotic strokes are when a blot clot forms in an artery that sends blood to the brain.
  2. Embolic strokes are are caused by a clot that originates somewhere else in the body then moves through vessels to the brain stopping the flow of blood.

Some symptoms of ischemic strokes are:

  • Sudden weakness and numbness in the leg, arm or face. These symptoms may affect only one side of the body.
  • Double vision or loss of vision
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness, trouble walking or with balance or coordination
  • Trouble speaking or comprehending speech

Surgery to Treat Hemorrhagic Strokes

A hemorrhagic stroke is when bleeding in the brain causes damage. An aneurysm, a weak spot in a blood vessel, that breaks is sometimes the cause of these types of strokes. Another cause of hemorrhagic stroke are abnormal blood vessels, also called arteriovenous malformation.

Bleeding may happen between the brain and the skull. When that happens, it is called a subarachnoid hemorrhage. During an intracerebral hemorrhage the bleeding is inside the brain.

Treatment for these types of strokes include:

  • Draining the blood around or in the brain
  • Repairing the brain aneurysm
  • Removing or blocking abnormal vessels that caused the bleeding

Symptoms of hemorrhagic stroke are often severe and sudden. They include:

  • An intense headache
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Vision problems
  • Light sensitivity

Strokes are a serious and life-threatening condition. If you think you are having a stroke, call 911. Speak to your primary care physician to discover if you have risk factors for stroke.

Dr. Todd Kuether is a neurosurgeon in Portland, Oregon. He helps patients who need brain surgery or spinal surgery. His expertise includes endovascular aneurysm and stroke treatment. To make an appointment, please contact his office.

Entry Filed under: Surgery Comments

Previous Posts