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Montefiore in the News

August 27, 2012

Drs. Sarwahi and Wollowick Are Among Few Surgeons in the Nation to Combine Technique and Technology to Offer Young Patients this Innovative Procedure 

New York City, NY (September 5, 2012) – Vishal Sarwahi, MD, Chief, Scoliosis Surgery, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Montefiore Medical Center, and Adam L. Wollowick, MD, Adult and Pediatric Spine Surgeon, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Montefiore Medical Center, will be presenting on the topic of minimally invasive scoliosis surgery at the 47th Annual Scoliosis Research Society (SRS) Meeting in Chicago, tomorrow, September 6, 2012. Montefiore is one of only five centers in the nation, and the only one in the New York area, performing this technique.

Minimally invasive surgery to treat scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine, in teenagers is a procedure that Dr. Sarwahi pioneered and has been performing at Montefiore for the past four years. The procedure to correct curvature of the spine involves three small incisions in the back, as opposed to standard open surgery, which requires over a foot long incision. Combining advanced intraoperative  imaging technology to guide the surgery and a minimally invasive technique, Dr. Sarwahi, Associate Professor of Clinical Orthopaedic Surgery, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, believes it is less disruptive to the patient’s natural anatomy, with less trauma to the muscle, tissue, nerves and blood vessels, resulting in shorter hospital stays, relatively less pain and pain medication and a return to mobility much quicker than the standard procedure.

“Montefiore is one of only a handful of institutions in the nation offering this advanced technique,” said Dr. Sarwahi. “We combine our expertise with multi-million dollar machinery to ensure the surgery is as safe and effective as possible. This option allows adolescents to undergo less trauma and have less visible scarring, while correcting the deformity as accurately as the traditional option.”

Dr. Sarwahi, Dr. Wollowick and co-authors published the first professional journal article in the world on this technique in Scoliosis in August, 2011.  Dr. Sarwahi has performed 12 of the innovative procedures. Most recently, Dr. Sarwahi treated Miriam Palmer, a 14 year old girl who attends dance class three times per week at her local Boys and Girls Club and has ambitions to be a model. Miriam

had previously worn a brace in an effort to straighten the curve in her back but found it heavy and uncomfortable. The curve worsened despite using the brace. Dr. Sarwahi performed the minimally invasive surgery on Miriam on July 16. Having spent only three days in the hospital, she is recovering well, is practicing dancing already and believes the surgery will allow her to pursue a modeling career because the scarring is almost non-existent. Miriam also believes she will be able to dance for longer periods of time without losing breath or being in pain.

The traditional procedure involves a surgeon opening a large section of the back, separating muscles and then placing rods, screws and bone grafts along the spine to straighten the curvature. Drs. Sarwahi and Wollowick, whose team treats over 1,000 scoliosis patients from around the country and the world annually, believe that young patients who opt to have the minimally invasive surgery are more satisfied with the aesthetic afterwards and have shown similar outcomes to the patients who received the traditional procedure. The most suitable candidates for the minimally invasive procedure are adolescents with a routine spinal curvature of 40-70 degrees.

Dr. Wollowick also performs minimally invasive surgery for adults with spinal deformity.  He combines a variety of less-invasive techniques, previously used independently to treat degenerative spinal conditions, to reconstruct deformed spines. This technique minimizes blood loss, shortens recovery time, avoids the need to enter the chest and/or abdomen, and decreases post-operative pain.  Dr. Wollowick is the only surgeon in the Bronx, and one of only a few in the region, who performs minimally invasive surgery for adult scoliosis.

Dr. Sarwahi and Dr. Wollowick will be presenting as part of the educational program to hundreds of medical professionals at the Scoliosis Research Society, sharing their expertise as leaders in the field of minimally invasive spinal deformity surgery. The half-day course entitled “Minimally Invasive Deformity Surgery” is the first of its kind to be presented at the Scoliosis Research Society Annual Meeting, a major international spine conference. The course was organized and is being co-chaired by Dr. Wollowick who is also Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University.

Dr. Wollowick, who performs minimally invasive scoliosis surgery on both adolescents and adults, has worked extensively with the SRS Education Committee and designed the program to address a previously unmet need. “Society members have increasingly asked for high quality information about minimally invasive options for patients with spinal deformity.  I wanted to develop a program to give attendees the latest, cutting-edge techniques; an internationally renowned faculty; and a complete review of the available literature,” said Dr. Wollowick.

Dr. Sarwahi was invited to present due to his extensive expertise and established reputation in the field of minimally invasive scoliosis surgery. He is fellowship-trained in pediatric orthopaedics and also in spine surgery. He was the Edwin Warner Ryerson Fellow in Pediatric Orthopaedics at the McGaw Medical Center of Northwestern University in Chicago. He completed another fellowship in spine deformity at the Hospital for Special Surgery of Cornell University, New York. This extensive training uniquely qualifies him to treat children and adolescents with the expertise of a spine surgeon and the approach of a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon. He is actively involved in the training of fellows, residents and medical students and annually donates his time to the education of spine surgeons in India. 

Dr. Wollowick is fellowship-trained in adult and pediatric spine surgery. He was a fellow at the Spine Institute of New York at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.  He then served as a visiting scholar in cervical spine surgery at Washington University School of Medicine/Barnes-Jewish Hospital, St. Louis, Missouri.  He serves as Assistant Residency Program Director in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Montefiore.  He is an editor for several journals, including Scoliosis and Spine Deformity.  He treats all types of spinal conditions, including degenerative disorders, and is experienced in all types of minimally invasive spine surgery.

Both Dr. Sarwahi and Dr. Wollowick have regularly spoken at national and international conferences and are available for interviews.