Howard Morgan, M.D.
Holder of the:
A tumor may be called “benign,” but it can cause plenty of trouble when it grows in a tight spot – like in or near the spinal cord, which runs down a narrow tunnel of bone. Spinal cord tumors can also be difficult to remove in surgery. Working in that space crowded with vital nerve cells, a surgeon doesn’t have much leeway.
Howard Morgan, M.D., M.A., M.S., Professor of Neurosurgery, recognized decades ago that tackling such tumors calls for serious magnification, and he was among the first neurosurgeons to use a microscope during operations. This approach, called microsurgery, makes the operation much more precise than it would be with the naked eye or with magnifiers on eyeglasses. Dr. Morgan has made spinal cord tumors a central part of his practice.
I get excited about taking care of a patient with a spinal cord tumor because I know often I can help that patient.”
“I know that if the patient doesn’t have surgery, oftentimes loss of neurological function and even paralysis may be the end result,” he says. “So I enjoy taking care of those patients.”
Dr. Morgan has long been interested in alternative positioning during spinal surgery. Most of the time, patients lie facedown during spinal surgery, but Dr. Morgan sometimes chooses to position these patients on their sides. That allows the surgeon more comfort and precision while working through the microscope, and it allows the anesthesiologist better access to the patient’s breathing tube – especially in obese patients. For many patients, it’s a safer approach.
Treating injuries to the spine and head, too, is an important part of Dr. Morgan’s practice. He has cared not only for countless trauma patients in Texas but also for wounded American soldiers evacuated from Iraq: In 2005, he served as a volunteer neurosurgeon with the Red Cross at the U.S. Army base in Landstuhl, Germany.
Trauma care is gratifying, he says: “Some patients have injuries that, with neurosurgical treatment, you can really impact their lives and their neurological function.”