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Standing Tall: New Technology Improves Spinal Care at Good Sam

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Standing Tall: New Technology Improves Spinal Care at Good Sam


After a car accident, Edward Dlag of Yaphank initially felt fine. Several years later, however, he suddenly felt a jolt shoot through his entire body. With double sciatic nerve damage, Mr. Dlag, a construction worker, had no feeling in either leg and was bent over. He was referred to Salvatore Palumbo, MD, FACS, Director of Neurotrauma at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center.

“When I saw Edward, he not only had a bad disc in his back but also had a significant spinal deformity, which meant scoliosis,” said Dr. Palumbo. “That made addressing the bad disc more of a surgical challenge, possibly destabilizing an already deformed spine.”

At Good Samaritan there is a new surgical navigation system called, “The NAV” which allows for obtaining a pre-op CT image with the patient in the same position they will be in for surgery. This is a major clinical advantage from other navigation systems in the area. This CT study is loaded onto the Stryker NAV3i which is then used to generate precise 3D navigating information, like GPS for surgery. It leads to fewer intra op x-rays, decreased surgery time and allows for more complex procedures and potential for increased surgical volume.

Dr. Palumbo and Salvatore Zavarella, DO, FACOS, a specialist in adult degenerative deformity and scoliosis, determined that Mr. Dlag suffered from a complex curvature of the spine known as rotatory lumbar scoliosis. In addition, he had a sagittal imbalance of his spine causing him to learn forward when he walked.       

“We knew there was a significant mismatch between his pelvis and his lumbar spine,” said Dr. Zavarella. “I was able to calculate exactly where he should be sitting and determine where to insert the grafts to stabilize his spine before walking into an operating room.”

Dr. Palumbo and Dr. Zavarella proceeded with a two-step surgical procedure, changing the confirmation of the spine before stabilizing it – all within seven to eight hours. In the past, this entire process could have taken days, from pre-surgical imaging to return visits for post-operative corrections.

“I was walking three days later and going up and down stairs within a week,” Mr. Dlag recalled. He continued to amaze his doctors when he returned to the construction site within two weeks.    

“He had a remarkable recovery,” said Dr. Zavarella. “This technology limited the surgery’s extensiveness, reduced blood loss and corrected his posture immediately.”

Since the new technology was introduced at Good Samaritan in fall of 2016, Dr. Zavarella and Dr. Palumbo say they’re not only able to accommodate more complex procedures, but also able to handle a greater volume of patients, estimating that they perform several major spinal configuration surgeries each month. For patients suffering from back and spinal issues, this new equipment provides them the comfort of world-class care without leaving their south shore communities. 

 “You don’t have to travel to Manhattan for these complex procedures,” said Dr. Zavarella. “We have this state-of-the-art technology and a multidisciplinary team who take care of you throughout the entire process. You can stay close to home and receive world class care.”

Several weeks after his surgery, Mr. Dlag says he’s proof of the procedure’s effectiveness. 

“I’m standing taller – literally and figuratively,” he said. “I thought I would have to live with this pain my entire life, but this technology combined with the skill of both Dr. Palumbo and Dr. Zavarella were an absolute blessing.”

For more information on neurosurgical services at Good Samaritan, call (631) 376-4444 or visit www.good-samaritan-hospiital.org/gshneurosurgery.