Intended for healthcare professionals


Fred Epstein

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 27 July 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:263

Innovative paediatric neurosurgeon whose own life was saved by neurosurgery

In his book If I Get to Five: What Children Can Teach Us About Courage and Character (New York: Henry Holt, 2004) the paediatric neurosurgeon Fred Epstein wrote, “All my life I'd been mesmerized by technology. I was never much of a student, but I always had an affinity for machines.”

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He wrote, “When I trained in neurosurgery, I became intrigued by the technical obstacles to operating in the brain stem and spinal cord—and by the tools that might make it possible. The brain stem of an adult is only about the size of your thumb—in a child's brain it's even smaller. This tiny portion of the brain controls all our basic life functions—consciousness, breathing, balance, blood pressure, temperature control, eye movement, hearing, and swallowing. It's also the main crossroad for all the major nerve pathways running to and from the cognitive and sensory areas of the brain.

“For some reason that we don't understand, children develop more tumors in the brain stem than adults do. …

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