otolaryngology

New Program Promises Speedy Evaluation for Cranial Nerve and Brainstem Disorders

UConn Health Center Outpatient Pavillion


UConn Health this winter established New England’s first Cranial Nerve and Brainstem Disorder Program, bringing together a multidisciplinary team of experts to streamline care for patients with such conditions.

Led by esteemed neurosurgeon Dr. Ketan R. Bulsara and ear, nose, and throat specialist Dr. Daniel Roberts, the team collaborates with specialists from nearly a dozen departments and will encompass clinical care, research, and teaching.

“One of the core principles of patient care at UConn Health is a multidisciplinary approach to providing personalized care to optimize patient outcomes,” Bulsara says. “The Cranial Nerve and Brainstem Disorder Program extends that core principle by bringing together world-renowned experts in their fields. We are fortunate at UConn Health to have such an accomplished team across so many different specialties that is willing to work together to provide the best care for our patients.”

The program guarantees rapid evaluation of patients, regardless of whether they were diagnosed recently or long ago. Patients or practitioners can submit a request through the center referral portal, which is staffed by Bulsara and Roberts. For neurosurgical or ear, nose, and throat issues, the patient will be offered an initial evaluation appointment that is within a week of their request.

If the cranial nerve or brainstem issue is not related to the ear, nose, and throat or a neurosurgical issue, the physicians will connect the patient with the appropriate service.

“To have patients be able to access care in a very timely and expedited fashion is key,” Roberts says. “A patient can call us and we’ll say, ‘We’ll see you within a week’ to get the ball rolling and help direct them through this complicated process.”

Areas of care include acoustic neuromas; blood vessel problems including aneurysms, arteriovenous malformation, and cavernomas; brain tumors; hemifacial spasm; meningioma; neurofibromatosis; skull base tumors; trigeminal neuralgia; and taste and smell disorders.

“Brainstem and cranial nerve disorders are quite rare, and often require experts from different areas for complicated issues,” Roberts says. “We’re excited about the future of this.”

Care is offered at UConn Health’s Outpatient Pavilion in Farmington and at its community clinics in Southington and West Hartford.

Visit the Cranial Nerve and Brainstem Disorders Program website for more information.

Follow-Up

Research doesn’t stop when we report it. Here are updates on past UConn Health Journal stories:


Hearing Loss

UConn Health otolaryngologist Dr. Kourosh Parham and his colleagues are collaborating with French pharmaceutical company Sensorion to develop a blood test that can warn patients and their doctors of early damage to the inner ear, before hearing loss is noticeable. Parham and his colleagues report in Hearing Research that levels of prestin, a protein found only in cells in the inner ear, rise sharply when those cells are damaged and start to die. Currently, hearing loss can only be identified after it has occurred.

Physician-scientist Dr. Kourosh Parham looks in patients ear

Fall 2016, “Detecting Vertigo, Hearing Loss via Blood Tests”


Health Disparities

Men and boys of color in Connecticut are less likely to have health insurance, more likely to be victims of violence, and more likely to die early from preventable diseases than their non-Hispanic white counterparts, UConn’s Health Disparities Institute reports in its inaugural Connecticut Report Card on Health Equity Among Men and Boys of Color. The report identifies social experiences that can negatively impact health in the population, as well as actions the state can take to address the disparities. Read more at UConn Today.

young black father looks over his ailing son on a hospital

Summer 2018, “Bridging the Health Care Gap”

The Healing Power of Fat

digital rendering of inside throat


Fat cells are increasingly being used in cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery, and now UConn Health has restored one patient’s lost voice by leveraging the power of fat.

In 2013, Ed Favolise, 70, a retired superintendent of schools in Connecticut, had surgery to remove a precancerous tumor from his chest. Part of the tumor encased a nerve that was severed during surgery, leaving his right vocal cord paralyzed and a major gap between his vocal cords.

For three years, Favolise’s voice was limited to a squeaky, high-pitched whisper while he pursued remedies at three different medical centers. After five surgeries and continuous vocal therapy, Favolise turned to the Voice Center at UConn Health.
Dr. Denis Lafreniere, chief of the Division of Otolaryngology, teamed up with Dr. Andrew Chen, chief of the Division of Plastic Surgery, to offer an innovative solution.

In the operating room, Lafreniere and Chen withdrew fat cells from Favolise’s abdomen, processed and measured them to make sure they had enough pure fat cells, and placed them directly into his injured vocal cord via a needle injector through a laryngoscope. The result? A permanently plumped vocal cord that’s in the proper position to contact the left vocal cord.

“My speech improved immediately and significantly,” says Favolise. “My experience shows that sometimes you need to be willing to take a chance on a pretty surprising, promising alternative medical solution and procedure.”

The Doctors Are In – Spring 2016

UConn Health welcomes the following new physicians:


Seth Brown, MD

Specialties: Ear, Nose, and Throat/Otolaryngology, Otolaryngology Surgery
Location: Farmington


Saira Cherian, DO

Specialties: Internal Medicine, Primary Care
Locations: Farmington


Alexis Cordiano, MD

Specialty: Emergency Medicine
Location: Farmington


Montgomery Douglas, MD

UConn School of Medicine Chair
of Family Medicine

Specialty: Family Medicine
Location: Farmington


Jeffrey Indes, MD

Chief of the Division of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery

Specialty: Vascular Surgery
Location: Farmington


Leah Kaye, MD

Specialty: Obstetrics and Gynecology
Location: Farmington


Glenn Konopaske, MD

Specialty: Psychiatry
Location: Farmington


Guoyang Luo, MD

Specialties: Obstetrics and Gynecology, Maternal-Fetal Medicine
Location: Farmington


Jose Montes-Rivera, MD

Specialties: Neurology, Epilepsy
Location: Farmington


Rafael Pacheco, MD

Specialty: Radiology
Location: Farmington


Mario Perez, MD, MPH

Specialties: Critical Care, Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Medicine
Location: Farmington


Edward Perry, MD

Specialty: Hematology/Oncology
Location: Farmington


Surita Rao, MD

Specialties: Addiction Psychiatry, Psychiatry
Location: Farmington


Belachew Tessema, MD

Specialties: Ear, Nose, and Throat/Otolaryngology, Otolaryngology Surgery
Location: Farmington


Cristina Sánchez-Torres, MD

Specialties: Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychiatry
Locations: Farmington, West Hartford


Brian Schweinsburg, Ph.D.

Specialties: Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychology
Locations: Farmington, West Hartford


Mona Shahriari, MD

Specialties: Dermatology, Pediatric Dermatology
Locations: Canton, Farmington


Kipp Van Meter, DO

Specialties: Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Primary Care
Location: Canton