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Novak named inaugural Chief of Autonomic Neurology Division within Department of Neurology

Peter Novak, MD, PhD, has been named inaugural Chief of the Autonomic Neurology Division within the Department of Neurology. Dr. Novak, an expert in movement disorders and autonomic neurology, previously led the autonomic program for UMass Memorial Health Care. Within Brigham and Women’s Department of Neurology he has established a sophisticated autonomic laboratory at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital where he evaluates and treats a wide array of patients with disorders of the autonomic nervous system.

“We see patients with conditions like dizziness upon standing, chronic fatigue, chronic pain and chronic digestion troubles. These are common conditions and the patient may have already been evaluated by many other subspecialties,” says Dr. Novak. “We can usually sort out what is autonomic and what is not.”

Testing for small fiber neuropathies, and related autonomic dysfunction, in the autonomic laboratory includes both a functional and morphological tests. “The functional test includes a tilt test and several exercise tests. For the morphology tests, we do skin biopsies to look at the nerves inside the skin,” explains Dr. Novak.

Through testing, Dr. Novak aims to diagnose the patient and determine how severe their condition is. “Based on the testing, we can decide on the optimal treatment for each individual patient,” he says. “In regards to treatment, it’s usually a combination of exercise, lifestyle and diet changes and medication. All three aspects are equally important.”

For Dr. Novak, establishing the Autonomic Neurology Division within the Department of Neurology makes very good sense. “In recent years, neurology has expanded rapidly and become more systematic and we have more ways in which to evaluate and treat patients,” he says. “Autonomic patients are very specific and we can help many of them.”

As Chief of the new Autonomic Neurology Division, Dr. Novak will work closely with the experts from the Pain Management Center at BWFH and in the Movement Disorders Division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital where he will have a special emphasis on painful small fiber neuropathies and multiple systems atrophy. 

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