2 Montgomery doctors combine unique specialties to treat tumor patients.
In the heart of Montgomery, you’ll find two accomplished physicians practicing their specialties. Dr. P.R. Schwetschenau is a neurosurgeon with Riverhills Neuroscience, treating complex conditions of the brain and spine. His Son, Dr. Eric Schwetschenau is an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose and throat specialist — or ENT) at Queen City Ear, Nose and Throat Associates, Inc. As unique as their individual disciplines are, there are specific opportunities for this father/son team to collaborate in advanced surgical treatment for pituitary tumors. This is their story:
Growing up as the son of a neurosurgeon, Eric was always familiar with the field of medicine. He explained that seeing the dedication and desire to help people instilled in his father played a large role in his decision to attend medical school. Eric also knew the particular field of medicine in which he was interested; He wanted to be an ENT doctor.
“You have to be dedicated to patients all of the time,” he said. He also knew that he wanted a balance of both work and family life. His work in ENT allows him the opportunity to perform surgical procedures, see patients in the office and still have time for his family. “ENT is a great blend of surgery and medical care. I see patient dealing with dizziness or allergies, that will never need surgical care — and still have opportunities to do some surgeries, which I love.”
Dr. P.R. Schwetschenau, began medical school at St. Louis University as a “hyper competitive” student with plans to be a cardiothoracic surgeon. However, when he heard about a neurosurgical program across town at Washington University he decided to see what they had to offer. After one summer working with the program, he opted to abandon his plans of being cardiothoracic surgeon and pursue neurosurgery.
In unexpected ways, their specialties overlap. “We see patients with similar problems,” explain Eric’s father, Dr. P.R. Schwetschenau. “I may see a patient with dizziness, and refer them to Eric, because what a patient thought was a brain problem is actually an inner ear problem.” Conversely, a patient may come to Eric with a neck problem that turns out to be a spine problem requiring neurosurgical care.
When it comes to pituitary tumors, however, father and son operate as a team. The pituitary gland controls endocrine function and is located between the nose and the brain. Therefore, surgery is best managed by an interdisciplinary surgical team. As an ENT, Dr. Eric Schwetschenau is able to operate endoscopically into the sinus and expose the brain and tumor. This allows for the neurosurgical portion of the procedure to commence. His father, Dr. P.R. Schwetschenau, is then able to resect the pituitary tumor. Eric then closes the sinus, completing the procedure.
Dr. P.R. Schwetschenau explains “Eric finished school and came to Cincinnati, it was a natural collaboration for us. Eric was young and had been trained on these newest procedures, using less invasive techniques to access pituitary tumors.”
This procedure for pituitary tumors is call “transphenoidal surgery.” The Schwetschenaus perform this procedure regularly at Bethesda North Hospital, which Eric describes as having “the technology best suited for them to work together safely and efficiently,” with computer guidance and 3D imaging to assist in their work.
“I’m really lucky to be able to do this,” admits Dr. Eric Schwetschenau, “to be able to collaborate with your father and bring your own skill set to really help patients.”
When the two are not in the operating room together, they are enjoying time at home. Eric has four boys, all of whom are active sports players. Dr. P.R. Schwetschenau takes pleasure in the simple things such as reading the paper or spending time with his grandchildren.
Montgomery physicians Eric Schwetschenau, MD (left) of Queen City Ear, Nose and Throat Associates, Inc., and P.R. Schwetschenau, MD (right) of Riverhills Neuroscience