Northwestern Medicine surgeon working to eliminate common side effects of spine surgery

Quicker assessment of swallowing and voice difficulties helps evaluate and treat patients

CHICAGO, Dec. 23, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Even after successful surgery to repair pinched nerves or herniated discs in the neck, patients often deal with a pair of common side effects — difficulty swallowing and hoarseness.

Northwestern Medicine® orthopaedic spine surgeon Alpesh A Patel, MD, FACS, is researching the best ways to assess and reduce the complications of dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) and dysphonia (changes in voice production and sound).

"While these are common complaints from patients after surgery, I found there is only limited research on dysphagia and dysphonia," said Patel, co-director of the Northwestern Spine Center and chief of orthopaedic spine surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. "I wanted to assess a questionnaire that could give us a relatively simple baseline measure for patients before and after surgery, a tool which can accurately chart their recovery."

The voice and throat can be affected during surgery for cervical disc herniations or spinal stenosis. Surgeons enter the space between the vertebrae through a small incision in the front of the neck. The surgical path crosses closely to the nerves and tissues that support both swallowing and speech. Even in the best of hands, patients can have trouble afterwards.

Working with Northwestern Medicine's Jason Savage, MD, and Wellington Hsu, MD, the physicians found the traditional tools used to measure outcomes on dysphagia and dysphonia were both inaccurate and time-consuming for patients and clinicians. The newly-developed Eating Assessment Tool and the Voice Handicap Index are given before surgery and then at various intervals for up to one year after the surgery.

"We are working with participants in the study to establish a baseline and then, over the course of a year, gauge their improvement," said Patel, who is also an associate professor of orthopaedic surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "Our hope is that ultimately our patients are not receive greater pain relief of pain from their pinched nerves or herniated discs but also from the common side effects of surgical treatment."

Northwestern's orthopaedics program is ranked first in Chicago and Illinois and seventh in the country on the U.S. News & World Report 2013-14 Best Hospitals specialty ranking for orthopaedics. For more information about orthopaedic care and spine surgery at Northwestern Memorial, visit our website or connect with us on social media.

To find a Northwestern Medicine spine surgeon, call 312-926-0779.

About Northwestern Medicine®

Northwestern Medicine® is the collaboration between Northwestern Memorial HealthCare and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine around a strategic vision to transform the future of healthcare.  It encompasses the research, teaching and patient care activities of the academic medical center. Sharing a commitment to superior quality, academic excellence and patient safety, the organizations within Northwestern Medicine comprise more than 9,000 clinical and administrative staff, 3,100 medical and science faculty and 700 students. The entities involved in Northwestern Medicine remain separate organizations. Northwestern Medicine is a trademark of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare and is used by Northwestern University.

About Northwestern Memorial Hospital

Northwestern Memorial is one of the country's premier academic medical center hospitals and is the primary teaching hospital of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Along with its Prentice Women's Hospital and Stone Institute of Psychiatry, the hospital has 1,705 affiliated physicians and 6,769 employees.  Northwestern Memorial is recognized for providing exemplary patient care and state-of-the art advancements in the areas of cardiovascular care; women's health; oncology; neurology and neurosurgery; solid organ and soft tissue transplants and orthopaedics.

Northwestern Memorial has nursing Magnet Status, the nation's highest recognition for patient care and nursing excellence. Northwestern Memorial ranks 6th in the nation in the U.S. News & World Report 2013-14 Honor Roll of America's Best Hospitals. The hospital is recognized in 14 of 16 clinical specialties rated by U.S. News and is No. 1 in Illinois and Chicago in U.S. News' 2013-14 state and metro rankings, respectively. For 14 years running, Northwestern Memorial has been rated among the "100 Best Companies for Working Mothers" guide by Working Mother magazine. The hospital is a recipient of the prestigious National Quality Health Care Award and has been chosen by Chicagoans as the Consumer Choice according to the National Research Corporation's annual survey for 15 consecutive years. 

SOURCE Northwestern Memorial Hospital



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