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Doctor fights stroke with innovative tactics

Dr. Camilo Gomez
Dr. Camilo Gomez, director of the Stroke Center at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, uses pioneering techniques, including temperature control, to treat stoke victims  

February 15, 2001
Web posted at: 5:15 p.m. EST (2215 GMT)

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (CNN) -- To Dr. Camilo Gomez, stroke is an enemy that deserves no quarter -- no mercy. He is one of a handful of pioneering physicians using aggressive new techniques to improve the quality of his patients' lives.

"He makes it very clear right up front that he's a taskmaster," said Dr. Sean Orr, a senior fellow at the University of Alabama Health System. "It's pretty obvious with anyone who interacts with him that he demands a lot of the people around him. He demands excellence."

Gomez brings a can-do spirit to the hospital that he learned while serving in the Gulf War. In addition to the standard treatments such as blood thinners, artery-clearing surgery and clot-busting drugs, the doctor uses unconventional methods like cool therapy.

CNN's Rhonda Rowland profiles the University of Alabama at Birmingham's stroke center and it's cutting edge therapies

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Get answers to your questions about stroke treatment right from the source. Join our online chat with Dr. Gomez on Friday, February 16 at 11 a.m. EST

In cool therapy, the patient's body temperature is lowered to treat the fever that is often associated with stroke. Research has indicated that inducing mild hypothermia can reduce brain damage after stroke.

Other techniques Gomez employs include the use of balloon devices and the implantation of stents -- tiny metal coils -- in the brain, similar to treatment long used for heart disease.

Gomez is "very aggressive," but "appropriately so," said Orr. "He has been labeled a cowboy by some people -- some detractors."

An assistant professor of neurology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a practicing neurologist, Gomez calls the scalpel "an obsolete tool."

"I'm more interested in 'who should we be treating with hypothermia' than I am 'should we be treating people with hypothermia,' " he said. "I think the answer is yes."

CNN Medical Correspondent Rhonda Rowland reports.

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University of Alabama Health System
Dr. Camilo Gomez faculty page
American Heart Association
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Stroke information

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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