Meet Dr. David McDonagh
Neurosurgical Anesthesiologist and Neurocritical Care Specialist in Dallas

From the beginning of his career, David McDonagh, M.D., knew he wanted to work with critically ill patients. He is one of approximately 50 physicians in the United States who have completed advanced training in both neurointensive care and neuroanesthesiology. He chose that path so he could build his career entirely around the critical care of the neurosurgical patient, offering the best care possible for people who are in extremely delicate and dangerous health situations.

As Chief of Neuroanesthesia and Medical Director of Perioperative Services at UT Southwestern’s Zale Lipshy University Hospital, Dr. McDonagh cares for neurovascular and stroke patients, brain tumor patients, complex spine surgery patients, and others with advanced surgical needs for diseases of the brain, spine, head, and neck.

His team, one of the largest academic neuroanesthesia and neurocritical care teams in the United States, makes sure these patients have an optimal recovery by providing vigilant, round-the-clock care ­– including state-of-the-art imaging and neuromonitoring services, pain control, and postoperative recovery.

“Providing that caliber of care takes a network of individuals who can function at top speed, at any time,” Dr. McDonagh says. “Acute strokes and unexpected surgical complications may happen at any hour of the day or night, so our services have to be at their very best, 24/7.”

Dr. McDonagh says that an experienced and specialized staff is the key to a high-performing brain institute.

“The reason UT Southwestern is able to offer the highest level neurosurgical services is that we not only have a large team of outstanding neurosurgeons, but also a team of highly trained and highly subspecialized experts in neuroanesthesia, neurocritical care, stroke neurology, neuroradiology, and neuropathology.”

Developing Better Neurocritical Care

Because it’s challenging to create and maintain a system that can perform so well and so consistently, one of Dr. McDonagh’s passions is developing new systems-based approaches to help his team function more efficiently and effectively in order to enhance the recovery of his patients.

“Those protocols often start well before an actual surgery,” he notes. “We set our patients up for success by making sure they have access to whatever services and specialists they may need for their unique situation before they reach the operating room – physical therapy, rehabilitation medicine, social workers, psychologists, internists, and geriatricians, for example.”

Dr. McDonagh’s work in the operating room and the critical care unit is often life-saving, but it is also mostly behind the scenes.

“My patients meet me when they are very ill, under extreme emotional stress, or have altered consciousness due to medications or brain injury- so they often don’t fully know what I’m there to do,” he says. “I think for people who are in fields like mine, we find gratification in seeing that our patients did well, that outstanding care was provided, and that we did our part to help patients and families through a very difficult time in their lives.”