The research areas and clinical interests of Nicholas M. Wetjen, M.D., include surgical treatment of pediatric epilepsy, craniofacial disorders, congenital anomalies and fetal surgery, cervical spine disease, Chiari malformation, and pediatric vascular disease.
- Craniosynostosis. Studies are underway to better understand possible genetic causes of single suture craniosynostosis. Dr. Wetjen's work will advance surgical outcomes by patient centered virtual surgical planning, compare open versus less invasive surgical techniques for craniosynostosis repair, examine the use of novel magnetic resonance imaging technologies to assess skull and skull base abnormalities of growth and intracranial elastance, and seek to optimize blood management during craniofacial surgery to improve patient outcomes.
- Chiari malformation and congenital anomalies of craniocervical junction. Chiari malformation is a rare anomaly in the skull that causes part of the cerebellum and brainstem to extend into the spinal canal. Dr. Wetjen's goal is to better define which symptoms improve after surgery by developing clinical prediction rules; understand the natural history of pediatric cervical and occipitocervical anomalies and timing of surgical intervention; and develop patient-centered outcomes of surgical success after Chiari malformation surgery.
- Epilepsy surgery. Epilepsy surgery research is directed at the investigation of imaging and electrophysiological signatures of the epileptogenic brain and the transition from normal brain activity to seizures (ictogenesis) in collaboration with adult and pediatric neurology colleagues in the Mayo Clinic Epilepsy and Neurophysiology Laboratory. Electrophysiological biomarkers of epileptogenic brain and precursor signals that precede the onset of clinical seizures may make seizure warning devices possible, as well as lead to improvements in the efficacy of epilepsy surgery and brain stimulation.
- Brain computer interface and limb reanimation technology. This technology is being developed for the treatment of impaired neurological function in patients with congenital and traumatic injuries of the central nervous system. Studies are ongoing to understand gait development in children with spina bifida and how early intervention with neuroprosthetic and neuroregenerative technologies may help recover motor function in these children. The last area of investigation is in collaboration with the Neuro Engineering Laboratory.
Significance to patient care
Dr. Wetjen's research is directed at the investigation of electrophysiological signatures of the epileptogenic brain and the transition from normal brain activity to seizures (ictogenesis) in collaboration with adult and pediatric neurology colleagues. Electrophysiological biomarkers of the epileptogenic brain and precursor signals that precede the onset of clinical seizures may make seizure warning devices possible, as well as lead to improvements in the efficacy of epilepsy surgery and brain stimulation.