If you saw college freshman Abbey Velischek walking around campus, swimming or working out at the gym, you would be surprised to learn that just months before coming to school she underwent major spinal reconstruction surgery. Velischek, who had worn a brace for years to correct the adolescent scoliosis she was diagnosed with in the fourth grade, was finding herself in pain and unable to stand on her feet for long periods of time. When x-rays revealed the curvature of her spine had worsened, she and her parents knew it was time to begin seriously exploring the possibility of surgery.
Like many patients who live in the Tri-State Area, the Velischeks first gravitated toward seeking care in New York City. That all changed when they connected with Dr. Scott A. Meyer, a board-certified neurosurgeon at Atlantic NeuroSurgical Specialists (ANS) in Morristown, NJ, who specializes in reconstructive surgery for spinal deformities, such as scoliosis.
“While neurosurgery in itself is highly specialized, a neurosurgeon’s sub-specialties can have a very significant impact on a patient’s health and long-term outcomes,” says Dr. Meyer.
Dr. Meyer, who performs roughly 75 spinal reconstruction surgeries each year, explains that even within the community of spine surgeons, there are far fewer who are comfortable addressing spinal deformities.
“Because of the significant curvature of Abbey’s spine and her worsening symptoms, it was clear she would need reconstructive surgery,” he adds. “It was also clear that with the right skill and approach, we could alleviate her pain, improve her quality of life and help keep her on track to head off to college as planned.”
After weighing her options, Abbey elected to undergo spinal fusion surgery with Dr. Meyer. During the five-hour procedure, Dr. Meyer – aided by advanced technologies that enable 3-D navigation during surgery – essentially used a series of small screws to manipulate and straighten her spine.
“Compared to the metal rods that were used to correct scoliosis decades ago, spinal fusion allows the curvature to be corrected at each point, with less strain on the vertebrae. Patients experience better results, greater stability and flexibility, and typically return more rapidly to their normal functions,” he notes.
Patients also benefit from the new technology. The Medtronic O-arm® Intra-operative Imaging System and the StealthStation® Surgical Navigation System, installed at Atlantic Health System’s Overlook Medical Center and Morristown Medical Center, help ensure more accurate placement of spinal hardware, often with smaller incisions, shorter surgical time, less pain and faster recovery compared with older technologies.
Abbey was walking just four days after surgery as she began to regain her mobility and start the healing process. Three months later, with few limitations on physical activity, she went off to college as a pre-med student.
“Undergoing this surgery wasn’t a decision I made lightly, and my recovery hasn’t been without hard work,” Abbey shares. “On the whole, however, Dr. Meyer gave me all the confidence in the world that this was the best path for me. He was right.”
Atlantic NeuroSurgical Specialists (ANS) is New Jersey’s largest neurosurgical practice and one of the most advanced in the country. Since its founding in 1958, ANS has specialized in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders affecting the spine and nervous system. For more information, visit www.ansdocs.com.