Patients all over the world can consult with specialists at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center, thanks to an international services program.
Francisco Laso, a mechanical engineer living in Quito, Ecuador, might not be alive today had he not obtained a virtual second opinion from noted Baylor St. Luke’s Neurosurgeon Ganesh Rao. Francisco underwent sinus surgery in his home country and developed a serious bacterial infection. After just one week, the infection spread to his brain. Francisco’s son is a physician, (pulmonologist) and referred him to Baylor St. Luke’s international medical ambassador in Ecuador, Dr. Nelson Maldonado, who facilitated a review with Dr. Rao, who is also the chairman of neurosurgery at Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Rao remotely reviewed Francisco's MRI, recognized the urgency and scheduled surgery immediately. The patient flew from Quito to Houston that night and underwent an eight-hour surgery the next day.
“If the abscess continued to grow, it could really cause neurological problems, headaches, seizures, and it can disseminate throughout the brain and into the spinal fluid, which could be fatal,” Dr. Rao said. “Francisco flew to Houston on a moment's notice and our team got him to surgery quickly.”
Dr. Rao performed a craniotomy, opening the skull, exposing the brain to remove the abscess and ruling out the presence of other bacteria or organisms that might also need to be treated with antibiotics. He relied on a multidisciplinary team that included neurological, infectious disease and intensive care specialists.
Francisco tolerated the surgery well and recovered quickly with physical therapy. Six weeks afterward, he was back at work, living his life as if nothing happened. “My life is completely normal and I don't have any pain so I am very happy. I am perfect. Great. No problem!”
Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center is jointly owned by Baylor College of Medicine and St. Luke’s Health, part of CommonSpirit Health, which oversees the international program. Each year, it assists more than a thousand patients in 85 countries, by bridging cultural and language differences and providing personal support to ensure humankindness is delivered at every touchpoint according to Tania Matar, System Vice President of International Health Services, CommonSpirit.
“The international remote second opinion is a new program that CommonSpirit Health International launched in order to connect patients in other countries to our physicians. COVID taught us that the virtual world is reality. Our remote second opinion technology allows our specialists to review a patient’s diagnosis, lab tests, images and treatment and determine whether travel to Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center is best for the patient,” Matar said.
Francisco was pleased with the efficiency of the international program. “There was not a lot of paperwork, and I was quickly taken into the intensive care unit once I arrived,” Francisco recalled. “I was really surprised with the agility with which the international team took care of me.”
Dr. Maldonado has seen the benefits of having access to Baylor St. Luke’s. His own mother relied on the international program for treatment of lymphoma. “It was lifesaving,” he said. “Here in Ecuador we do not have the genetic sequencing that was needed to identify the appropriate treatment. Without that genetic testing, she had less than a 20-percent chance of survival.” She is a three-year cancer survivor now, he explained.
Patients may request an international remote second opinion from Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center by visiting stlukesinternational.org or calling +1-832-355-3350.