Giving spina bifida families the care they need

Ian S. Mutchnick, M.D., is on a mission to help spina bifida patients and their families navigate this complex health condition with ease.

Ian S. Mutchnick, M.D., is on a mission to help spina bifida patients and their families navigate this complex health condition with ease.

“I feel honored to be able to help families with what is often one of the most difficult situations they can face,” said Dr. Mutchnick, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Norton Children’s Neuroscience Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine.

Nearly 1,500 babies are born with spina bifida each year. Most spina bifida patients receive a diagnosis before birth, and post-birth assessments are necessary to truly determine the condition’s severity.

Spina bifida happens when the spinal cord or the membranes that cover them (meninges) don’t fully develop the way they should. This can lead to permanent neurologic deficits, difficulty with bowel and bladder control, scoliosis and more.

Coordinating care for spina bifida patients

Because of the wide range of issues associated with spina bifida, patients often require care from multiple specialists and providers.

To help parents and improve care, the Norton Children’s Spina Bifida Clinic was established to provide a single location, all on the same day, where kids could see all their specialists from any of the many spina bifida-related fields.

The clinic at Norton Medical Plaza 3 – St. Matthews, on the same campus with Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital, brings together a group of specialists on the third Wednesday of each month so that patients can receive care from all of their providers on the same day. Kids can get comprehensive, collaborative care close to home.

Patients can visit with neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons, spine surgeons, urologists, gynecologists, physical and occupational therapists and rehabilitation and social services specialists from Norton Children’s. Family support services from the Spina Bifida Association of Kentucky and nutritional consultations are also available at the clinic.

“The spina bifida clinic came together because Norton Children’s realized that this was the right thing to do for the patients,” Dr. Mutchnick said.

“We are proud of our spina bifida clinic,” he said. “And we are here to help. We enjoy caring for patients and hope that they are able to connect with us to facilitate their care.”

Norton Children’s Spina Bifida Clinic

The full range of spina bifida specialists in one place on the same day.

(502) 559-SBAK (7225)

The path to caring for kids’ complex conditions

Dr. Mutchnick didn’t always know he would want to care for spina bifida patients and children with other neurological conditions.

Initially, Dr. Mutchnick was interested in becoming a primary care physician. But during his third year in medical school, he had a career-altering experience during his neurosurgery rotation.

One night, while he was on call, he watched a resident drill a hole in a patient’s skull and put in a monitor.

“I was hooked,” he said.

He decided to go into pediatrics after spending time during his neurosurgery residency at the University of Louisville School of Medicine with Dr. Moriarty, whom Dr. Mutchnick describes as “one of the best neurosurgeons” he has ever met.

“I also just like being around children,” Dr. Mutchnick said. “With their skills and their robust will to survive.”

Outside of the operating room, Dr. Mutchnick’s interests lie in humanitarian efforts and research.

He joined the Peace Corps after receiving his undergraduate degree and has taken several trips to the West Bank and Gaza to provide free neurosurgical care to children. He is also interested in how human cognition and group identification can help us better understand human conflict.

Because the job can be physically and mentally demanding, Dr. Mutchnick stays healthy by exercising in his free time. He is also a gifted percussionist and plays alongside local musicians.