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Neurosurgery for Children in East Tennessee

Pediatric neurosurgeons treat issues in a child’s nervous system as well as head and spinal deformities. East Tennessee Children’s Hospital neurosurgeons are highly trained to address congenital disorders— conditions that exist before or at birth. Some of these issues are genetic, but most happen in families with no history of the disorder.

The most common congenital disorders include:

  • Abnormal skull shape
  • Birth marks
  • Ear deformities
  • Spina bifida

Whether your child was born with their condition or developed it later in life, our capable team is ready to help however they can.

Spina Bifida

Spina bifida is a neural tube defect that happens very early on in pregnancy. Babies with the condition are usually delivered by cesarean section and brought to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Pediatric neurosurgeons fix the holes left open in the vertebrae due to spina bifida shortly after birth. This procedure does not return normal function to the spinal cord. As your child grows older, the pediatric neurosurgeon will work with other pediatric specialists to create a plan for managing spina bifida.

Pediatric Tumors

Pediatric neurosurgeons work with neurologists and oncologists to address tumor growths in the central nervous system. When a tumor has been identified, your child will have a biopsy to determine if it is malignant or benign. If the cancer has not spread and the doctor deems it safe for the patient, we may be able to remove the tumor through surgery.


Hydrocephalus is a build-up of fluid in the brain. It affects one in every 500 children. The condition may be caused by spina bifida, tumors or cysts or head trauma. It can sometimes result in learning disabilities, visual problems, and developmental delays.

Thankfully, this this condition can be treated by draining the fluids into the torso with a shunt. The treatment is usually successful without complications.

Allison's Story

Allison's StoryAllison has done a lot while battling a brain condition called hydrocephalus, but her biggest accomplishment is the legacy she’s built at Children’s Hospital. She's now studying biochemistry and wants to be a neurosurgeon.

Learn more about Allison

Be sure to have your child examined if they display common symptoms of Hydrocephalus:

  • Their head is unusually large or seems to be enlarging quickly
  • A soft, tense spot on the top of the head
  • Eyes tend to drift downward
  • Frequent vomiting and difficulty eating
  • Difficulty staying awake
  • Frequent urination with loss of bladder control


Craniosynostosis, or abnormal skull shape, results from the fusion of two or more sutures in your child's skull. The sutures are usually gaps that allow your baby's skull to grow. If the sutures grow together, the skull has to grow in a different direction. This sometimes makes the skull appear cone-shaped. A pediatric neurosurgeon can treat this issue by completing surgery before your child reaches age 1. They will increase the volume of the skull so that the brain can grow without pressure and improve the look of the skull and the forehead.

Reach out to Dr. J. Gentry Savage at (865) 524-1869 if you have any questions about neurosurgery at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital.

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