Vol. LXI, No. 15
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
BEST BACKS: "My practice is focused on treating complex spinal disorders that have other forms of treatment have failed to correct, whether non-operative or operative. My office is geared to my elective practice, and we are well-known for very personalized care. We are very patient-oriented." Dr. Haim D. Blecher recently opened University Spine Associates, P.A. in Princeton.
What sends people to the doctor more than anything else? The common cold, of course. But after that, back pain is the most frequent reason to seek medical help, reports. Dr. Haim D. Blecher. It is also second only to headaches as the most common source of pain in the U.S.
A Board-Certified and Fellowship-trained spine surgeon, Dr. Blecher opened University Spine Associates, P.A. in December at 256 Bunn Drive.
"The spine is 100 percent of my focus," he explains. "This is the only thing I do, and my practice is the only completely spine-focused practice in Princeton."
Anyone with a bad backache knows how much relief means, and Dr. Blecher notes that actually in 90 percent of cases, back problems can be treated non-surgically. "Physical therapists, pain management specialists, and chiropractors can help in most cases."
For the other patients, whether needing elective or emergency surgery, Dr. Blecher is there!
He attended medical school at the State University of New York Health Science Center at Syracuse, graduating with an Academic Excellence Scholarship. He interned in general surgery at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, followed by an orthopaedic residency there as well. During that time, he also trained in orthopaedic oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York.
Following his residency, he obtained a prestigious Spine Surgery Fellowship at the Spine Institute of New York-Beth Israel Medical Center, where he trained for one year.
He practiced in Lawrenceville for two years, before deciding to open his own practice in Princeton, and focus exclusively on the spine. Such surgery offers a range of challenges, he reports. "The conditions are very variable. Some weeks, I'll operate on someone with an injury; other times, on a patient with metastatic breast cancer. The spine is one of the most common places for cancer to spread, and I have a real interest in helping cancer patients."
Dr. Blecher operates primarily at the Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick and the University Medical Center in Princeton, and also occasionally at the Spine Institute at Beth Israel in New York.
He says that the most common forms of elective spinal surgery are associated with back and neck pain, herniated disks, and stenosis. He also tackles more complex disorders, such as adult scoliosis and others, which can require complex spinal reconstruction.
Dr. Blecher specializes in minimally-invasive surgery, and the operations vary from one hour to 12 hours, with two to four hours more typical. He emphasizes the importance of spending time with the patient to evaluate the condition; there is no rush to surgery.
"More than 50 percent of my time is talking with and listening to patients," he explains. "They don't feel rushed. We take time to educate them about their condition. I often speak with patients for more than an hour at a time."
Also, he adds, patients must have clearance from their primary physician for surgery, in particular relating to heart, lungs, and blood.
In addition, before deciding on surgery, patients must have explored non-surgical methods, sometimes for at least six months. Physical therapy, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, pain management injections, chiropractic treatments, acupuncture and massage, used together or separately, have been successful in the treatment of back pain.
Painful back conditions can result from many causes, points out Dr. Blecher. "Some are due to trauma or injury; others may be developmental or age-related, and many are multi-factorial."
He sees patients from adolescence up into their eighties, noting, "Patients' health condition is more important than their age. Someone at 80 can be very healthy, while a person much younger may be in poor health. And patients who are active want to be able to continue their life-style, continue to play, golf, tennis, and remain active."
Dr. Blecher also advises people to do all they can to ensure good health by adopting healthy habits. "Live healthily, eat healthily, exercise (some exercises are specifically geared to the back), and don't smoke!"
He is very proud of his state-of-the-art surgical practice and his examination and consultation rooms at Bunn Drive. He also reports that all records are electronic, and he is pleased that he is able to help an increasing number of patients.
"They are referred by word-of-mouth, by orthopaedic and spine surgeons, and primary physicians, and they are coming from all over the state and beyond. Because of our insurance policy, people come to us out of network. They choose to come here. We make an effort to help patients with insurance issues, providing services to deal with the insurance logistics. This helps patients focus on their health and not administrative procedures."
Dr. Blecher is a frequent guest lecturer and instructor for various spine-related meetings, and has been a surgical instructor for artificial disc replacement, minimally-invasive spine surgery, and advanced instrumentation techniques for the treatment of scoliosis. Recently appointed clinical assistant professor at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, he is dedicated to the teaching and training of young surgeons.
The author of a number of published papers relating to spinal injuries and surgical procedures, he has also given many presentations on these topics. He is actively affiliated with a series of organizations, including the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the North American Spine Society, and Spine Universe (an extensive informational website, for which he has written educational materials).
"I am excited to be able to build my practice in the way I want it to be," says Dr. Blecher. "We offer patients the ideal health care environment, They can receive New York and Philadelphia-quality care right here in Princeton. I offer high-quality help to patients. I want people to know they don't have to leave the area to get top-notch care. It is very satisfying to help patients regain their quality of life, to make a difference in someone''s life."
University Spine Associates has an extensive website, which also offers the opportunity to make appointments on-line at www.universityspine.com. For telephone appointments, call (609) 924-8060.
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