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Feature | June 11, 2013

Growing to meet your needs: Langley neurology offers 'brainy' choice in care

By Airman 1st Class R. Alex Durbin 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

With approximately 100 billion neurons and more than 1,000 trillion connections forming a single consciousness, the human brain is believed to be by far the most complex object in the known universe. Some experts estimate if the average human brain was a computer, it could hold 1,000 terabytes of information, or around 250 billion songs. Weighing roughly three pounds, the brain only takes up to 2 percent of an average human's body mass; it uses 20 percent of a body's oxygen and energy to function.

As the center of the nervous system, the brain exerts control over all other organs of the body, and is responsible for human consciousness. The brain is fundamental for all great human intellectual feats such as the Sistine Chapel, Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, the Golden Gate Bridge and everything in between.

When things go wrong with a human's most vital organ, the staff at U.S. Air Force Hospital Langley's Neurology Clinic at Langley Air Force Base, Va., is ready to assist Service members in their time of need.

Neurology is the medical specialty that deals with the anatomy, function and disorders of the nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, nerves and muscles. Neurologists are physicians trained to diagnose and treat a wide variety of nervous system-related conditions, including strokes, migraines, movement disorders, traumatic brain injury and epilepsy.

According the United Nations, nearly one in every six people suffers from neurological disorders world-wide. With this in mind, the clinic is prepared to treat a wide array of neurological conditions.

"Our clinic is a full-service neurological health center," said Dr. [Capt.] Gregory Trolley, 633rd Medical Operations Squadron Neurology Clinic Medical Director. "Our staff is dedicated to offering comprehensive care for our patients."

The clinic is one of nine neurological clinics Air Force wide and boasts a staff that provides a wealth of knowledge to offer specialized neurological services, including electroencephalography (EEG) studies. EEG studies measure electrical activity in the brain via sensors attached to the patient's head, which diagnose patients with epilepsy and other brain-related disorders.

In addition to EEGs, the clinic provides consultations for patients experiencing persistent headaches, numbness or pain, unconsciousness, abnormal vocal tone, memory loss or difficulty walking, moving or balancing.

The clinic opened in January 2012 as part of the hospital's plans to offer more specialty services to the Joint Base Langley-Eustis community. The program is intended to not only offer patients a great diversity of care, but avoid the inconvenience of traveling to other health care treatment facilities.

"Not only does the expansion save patients time and energy, but it allows the service providers continuity of care when patients go to multiple clinics within our hospital," said Trolley. "We try to make ourselves as accessible as possible, because, at the end of the day, we're here for the patients."

The clinic is referral-based, and sees between 120 and 140 patients monthly, focusing on individual, personalized care.

"For our clinic, customer service is a top priority," said Tech. Sgt. Valarie Platt, Neurology Clinic noncommissioned officer in charge. "We want to build a solid relationship with our patients."

As a testament to this, the program also focuses on cross-specialty communication. Neurology plays a unique role because it is regularly called upon to counsel patients visiting other clinics, as well as fellow care providers when they are presented patients showing brain-related symptoms. According to Trolley, offering a wide range of services in-house allows care providers the opportunity to work cohesively to find the best solution to a patient's needs.

"Communication is key," said Trolley. "No one is an expert in everything. Medicine requires a team-based approach, and the more team members you have, the better care you can offer patients."

Trolley and the clinic plan to improve by increasing availability to patients by including an additional neurologist and expanding services. They intend to do this by providing certifications in electromyography (EMG), a study used to measure electrical activity in a patient's muscles, and nerve conduction studies, a test commonly used to evaluate function of motor and sensory nerves.

"Offering as many services as possible is extremely important," said Trolley. "We want patients to be able to find all of their care under our roof."

The brain harnesses ever-shifting neuronal networks in a complicated pattern of synchrony, creating a symphony of consciousness. Like musicians in an orchestra, the billions of neurons work together to understand the universe around it. When your mental orchestra is out of key, the Langley neurology clinic is there to fine-tune a human's most important asset.