Neurology Central

Controversial neurosurgery: Interview with Charlie Teo

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Charlie Teo is a globe-trotting neurosurgeon; travelling the world with kids in tow – operating on brain tumors most other surgeons have, or would, deem inoperable. Despite having a significant impact on many individuals’ lives, placing him in multiple lists of top neurosurgeons worldwide, Teo is considered somewhat of an outsider within the field. Many colleagues have been openly scathing of his radical approaches and branded him as irresponsible, at best.

I sat down with Teo at the recent International Symposium on Pediatric Neuro-oncology (Liverpool, 12–15th June 2016) to find out for myself whether there is method to the ‘madness’ and whether ‘reckless practitioner’ or ‘boundary-pushing life-saver’ are the most apt descriptions for this fascinating neurosurgeon.

Tackling the most complex tumors

Teo started out in general neurosurgery at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (Sydney, Australia) before specializing in pediatric brain tumor surgery following a fellowship at The Children’s Medical Center in Dallas (TX, USA). On his return to his homeland of Australia, Teo found that there were few opportunities for specialized pediatric neurosurgeons and started to see patients who had been told that their tumors were inoperable: “I started just doing tumors that I thought I could get out and other people couldn’t. Then I started getting a reputation for taking out tumors that no-one else could take out and now that’s mostly all that I do; these really difficult cases.”

“I’ll never deny that I get my fair share of bad outcomes; unfortunately when you play with fire you get burnt”

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