Pikeville Medical Center’s department of Neurological Surgery continues to save and improve the lives of many in Eastern Kentucky. Our neurosurgeons, Dr. Duane Densler & Dr. Norman Mayer use the most innovative techniques and technology to treat their patients; truly setting PMC apart from other medical institutions in the area.

Patients from all over the U.S. have received care at Pikeville Medical Center for neurosurgery and compare our compassionate staff and cutting-edge technology to the best in the nation!

PMC invested in two world-class caliber surgeons and the most advanced neuroscience equipment in response to the region’s high incidence of cranial, spinal and cervical injuries.

PMC Clinic Building, 8th Floor
911 Bypass Road
Pikeville, KY 41501

Dr. Duane Densler helps patient walk again

WALKING AGAIN: PMC Neurosurgeon Dr. Duane Densler is shown with patient David Cline of Buchanan County, Va.

A coal miner of 35 years is able to walk again thanks to Pikeville Medical Center (PMC) Neurosurgeon Duane Densler, MD.

David Cline, of Buchanan County, Va., developed degenerative disc disease early in life and endured severe back pain. This past spring, he fell off of his porch causing him to become quadriplegic and face life with no mobility.

Cline was brought to PMC where Dr. Densler performed a cervical decompression and fusion for severe stenosis and spinal cord compression.

After surgery and a stint in PMC’s Rehabilitation Hospital, Cline is mobile once again.

Dr. Densler is pleased with Cline’s successful outcome.

“Mr. Cline suffered a potential life-ending injury,” he said. “He has made a remarkable recovery, mainly because of his determination and perseverance and the effort of the PMC trauma team.”

Cline praised Dr. Densler and PMC for helping him walk again.

“Between Dr. Densler and the Rehabilitation Hospital staff, I couldn’t have been treated any better,” said Cline. “The nurses were also good and really tried to help me recover.”

For more information about PMC’s neurosurgery services, call 606-218-2208.

Life-changing experience: ATV accident survivor praises PMC surgeons

GRATEFUL: Harold resident James Tackett is pictured alongside Pikeville Medical Center Neurosurgeon Dr. Duane Densler one year after suffering a near fatal ATV accident. Photo by Jessica Howard

PIKEVILLE — Wearing a helmet while operating an ATV reduces the risk of fatal head injury by 42 percent and the risk of non-fatal head injury by 64 percent.

Most people don’t understand the importance of ATV safety statistics until they, or a loved one, are involved in an ATV accident.

James Tackett, 20, of Harold, experienced firsthand the importance of observing riding safety.

On August 11, 2012, at 9:25 p.m., James was riding his four-wheeler from his uncle’s house to his house at 25 mph (less than a 30-second drive). In an instant, an accident left James lying on the ground, unconscious and not breathing.

After a few minutes he began breathing again and in less than 30 minutes, James was being transported by ambulance to PMC’s Emergency Department (ED).

James was diagnosed with two severe skull fractures, leaving his skull severely swollen and bleeding.

Neurosurgeon Dr. Duane Densler drilled a hole in his head to relieve the skull’s swelling and pressure.

Twenty-four hours later, James was taken to surgery where Dr. Densler removed a 4″ x 6″ circular piece of his skull from the right side of his head.

“He had such severe cerebral edema (swelling of the brain) that it was life-threatening,” said Dr. Densler. “We rushed him off to surgery, where I removed a 4″ x 6″ bone flap from his skull to allow the brain to swell. In order to preserve the skull, we placed the flap in a pocket in his lower left abdomen.”

After surgery, James stayed in a medical coma in PMC’s intensive care unit (ICU) for two and a half weeks.

Peggy Tackett, James’ mother, said, “During that time, his body went through so many changes and his head swelled until it was unrecognizable. If I wasn’t his mom and I didn’t know that was him, I wouldn’t have recognized him.”

Once he woke up from his coma, James continued treatment on the seventh floor and Inpatient Physical Rehabilitation Hospital. James left the hospital on Sept. 7.

On October 29, James returned to the hospital for a follow-up surgery.

Today, one year later, James suffers from normal side effects from his injury, including: headaches, numbness, mood swings and dizziness.

Dr. Densler has told the family it will take at least two years for his head to completely heal.

“He is one of the lucky ones,” said Dr. Densler. “Most people who have the injury he did don’t survive. It was the rapid transit from the ED to surgery, the superb ICU care, and everything working together perfectly, just as it should, that helped James experience a remarkable recovery.”

The Tackett family knows they have experienced a miracle.

“I truly believe if it wasn’t for the good Lord and Dr. Densler, my son would not be here today,” said Peggy. “Dr. Densler will always be in my heart, and if I go 20 years and do not see this man, I will think of him every day because of what he has done for my son.”

After James’ accident, the Tackett family lost two other family members to fatal ATV accidents. They too, were not wearing helmets.

Peggy expresses the importance of riding safely, “I want people to realize that I was blind to what could happen. Did I expect a broken leg or arm? Of course. But something this extreme? No. I don’t want others to experience what I did, because it is horrible.”

Peggy continued, “My life changed on August 11, and I will probably never be the same again. It’s one thing when you hear of other kids being in an accident…your heart goes out to them. But, it’s another thing to see your own child – your whole life – laying there. It’s the worst thing. Riders need to wear helmets, and parents need to open their eyes and realize it can happen. It did happen and not even 30 seconds from home.”

Having been trained in trauma care, Dr. Densler knows that James will not be the last patient he sees with this kind of injury. He stated, “The best thing to prevent brain injury while riding is wearing a helmet.

James and his family are appreciative at PMC’s Neurosurgery team, as well as all the nurses and everyone who took care of them in the Emergency Department, the ICU, seventh floor and the Inpatient Physical Rehabilitation Hospital.

“We thank PMC for all they did,” said Peggy. “Everyone was so wonderful.”

James also sends his sincere appreciation to the Toller Creek Fire Department, TransStar Emergency Services, family, friends and everyone who prayed for him.




Phelps man praises PMC’s Neuro team

PIKEVILLE — Justin Hurley and his wife Rachel, of Phelps, live each moment as it is their last.

On April 27, 2013, Justin and Rachel were on their way to visit family, three miles down the road, when their car traveled off the embankment. Walking back up to the hard top, Justin fainted and hit his head on the pavement.

“I remember, I was lying on the ground and one of my buddies who works at the volunteer fire department was trying to keep me awake,” said Justin. “The pain in my head was excruciating. It felt like it was about to explode. I blacked out, and the next thing I remember is riding in the ambulance to the hospital.”

Once he arrived at PMC’s Emergency Department, Neurosurgeon Dr. Duane Densler informed Justin he needed brain surgery.

“The pain was unbearable,” explains Justin. “I was scared for my life, and I remember praying, ‘Lord have mercy on me.”‘

Justin was diagnosed with an epidural and subdural hematoma (bleeding on the brain), as well as a skull fracture.

After surgery, Justin spent five days in the hospital, including three days in PMC’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Rachel praises the staff at PMC by saying, “Everyone was wonderful. Amanda Case and Derek Kenne in the ICU were awesome. I would ask the same question a hundred times and they never got aggravated with me. They were always good to me and answered my questions, making me feel comfortable. I know they really cared.”

She continues, “I remember one time, Amanda sat in Justin’s ICU room with me for over an hour. I was a nervous wreck when I came in, but when I left she made me feel like a million dollars.”

When talking about the care they received at PMC, Justin and Rachel can’t say enough about Dr. Densler.

“We are so thankful for everything Dr. Densler has done. He’s such a good person and he really cares. He is probably the friendliest doctor at PMC.”

Today, only a few months later, Justin is doing much better.

“I still experience some dizziness/fogginess and a couple of headaches here and there. At first I couldn’t taste or smell, but my senses are starting to come back slowly. I’m just taking it easy and letting my body heal.”

“It really is a miracle,” said Rachel. “I truly believe God brought us through this. After an injury like his most people never talk or walk again, but he was able to do that right away.”

Dr. Densler agrees that Justin’s recovery is not “normal.” He attributes Justin’s remarkable success to fast intervention and the fact that PMC offers trauma services 24 hours a day/seven days a week.

“I think Justin is doing extremely well,” said Dr. Densler.

Looking back, Justin says, “You go through life and take things for granted. I took a simple trip down the road and it could have been the last trip of my life. As bad as this experience was, it was still a good experience, because it has changed me. It has made me realize what I have and value more than I did in the past.”

Justin thanks his wife, family and friends for all their support.

For more information about neurosurgery services offered please call 606-218-4710.

MEDICAL MIRACLE: Patient praises PMC’s Densler for better life

PAIN-FREE: Virgie resident Daryl Burke had successful back surgery performed by Pikeville Medical Center Neurosurgeon Dr. Duane Densler. The surgery has allowed him to enjoy being pain free.

PIKEVILLE — Daryl Burke, 61, of Virgie, proudly stands up straight and touches the ground past his feet.
“I am doing things now that I haven’t been able to do in the past four to five years,” said Burke.

It wasn’t until after his recent back surgery, performed by Pikeville Medical Center Neurosurgeon Dr. Duane Densler, that Burke was optimistic about his future.

Last year, after Christmas, Burke began experiencing excruciating pain.

“The pain got so bad that I became a cripple in a week,” Burke explained. “I could not walk, I could not lie down, and I could not find a comfortable position to sit. I was in agony.”

He could not take the pain any longer and visited PMC’s Emergency Department where he received an MRI.

“My pain was so severe, I could not even stand to lie down,” Burke said. “They gave me six pain shots, two at a time and the pain still did not ease up so they put me to sleep to perform the MRI.”

Burke was diagnosed with Cauda Equina Syndrome, a rare disorder causing pressure on the spinal nerves’ roots. This syndrome can result in lasting damage, leading to incontinence and possible permanent paralysis of the legs.

After receiving the MRI results, Dr. Densler performed emergency surgery on five of Burke’s lumbar disks to help alleviate his pain and prevent permanent damage.

“I was very impressed with Dr. Densler. He got out of bed and came to perform emergency surgery on me, and he did an excellent job,” said Burke. “There was a big scare, but everything turned out really good.”

Burke also praised the nurses.

“The nurses who took care of me on the floor, before I went to therapy, did a wonderful job. They really cared.”

After surgery, Burke received physical therapy through PMC’s Inpatient Rehabilitation Hospital.

“Dr. Calima and the staff from the therapy department did an excellent job,” said Burke.

Since leaving the hospital, Burke attends therapy twice a week.

“I had to learn how to walk all over again,” said Burke. “I went home in a wheelchair, and I gradually moved from the wheelchair to a walker, then to a cane and now I don’t need to use anything for assistance.”

After seeing Burke post-surgery, Dr. Densler said, “I am very pleased with Mr. Burke’s progression and continuous recovery. We were able to help him because Pikeville Medical Center has access to rapid MRIs and there is someone on call for Neurosurgery 24/7. These two factors came together, in his situation, to really help restore his life.”

Burke says the support given from his wife and family has played a big part in his recovery.

Before falling ill, Burke served the Virgie area for many years as a football and basketball coach, a teacher and a bus driver.

Burke looks forward to getting back to his normal activities such as yard work, gardening and attending his grandchildren’s ball games.

Neurosurgeons Dr. Duane Densler and Dr. Norman Mayer specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions pertaining to the central and peripheral nervous system; complex surgery of the spine; and treatment/removal of tumors on the brain and spine.

A physician’s referral is required.

For more information about the neurosurgery treatments provided at PMC, please call 606-218-4710.


Pikeville Medical Center was the first and only hospital in the region, and is among only a select few hospital’s in the nation to offer the Brainlab system. With the use of this guided cranial navigation system, Dr. Densler and Dr. Mayer help their patients recover from tumors and other brain related injuries more efficiently.

“The Brainlab is something that allows us to remove tumors that otherwise we would not be able to remove through normal surgical procedures,” Dr. Norman Mayer said. “It enables us to treat patients and make this type of surgery for them as comfortable as possible.”

The Brainlab system also allows the neurosurgeon to make an accurate and noninvasive assessment of a patient’s brain injury and the procedure, before an operation takes place. Once in surgery, the neurosurgeon takes comfort in knowing that he/she is now able, due to Brainlab technology, to perform a less invasive procedure. Before Brainlab more aggressive surgical procedures were used, which at times could cause new neurological problems in patients such as: weakness on the opposite side of the body or difficulty speaking.

When Brainlab was entered into service at PMC, Dr. Duane Densler commented, “You can go anywhere in the world, and you won’t see anything more modern than this…This is truly, truly top of the line technology.” “We can see the tumor in 3D. We can look at vital structures around the tumor and find that small, safe corridor through the door. This system allows us to plan our path, our journey into the brain and sneak the tumor out.”

Call 606-218-2208 for an appointment

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