Q & A WITH DR. BITAN
How has orthopedic spine surgery changed since you began your practice?
The field of spine surgery has probably changed more than any other field of orthopedics in the last 20 years. It’s unbelievable.
Twenty years ago, spinal fusion was the only option. Today many patients benefit from motion preservation techniques such as artificial disc replacements (A.D.R.).
For scoliosis surgery, we used to open the whole body to correct the deformities. The recovery could take up to a year. That was the only way to do it. Today in many cases we can get the same results with one- to two-inch incisions.
Minimally invasive spine surgery is the norm for many conditions, and I now do robotic surgery as well. Patients recover fast. It is incredible.
There have also been some problematic changes in the practice of medicine as a whole. Some doctors are forced to see 4 patients an hour, so they never really get to know them. The nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant does almost everything except operate. I tried this for a little while, but it didn't work for me. I like to get to know my patients. So I’ve kept one part of medicine that might seem a little old fashioned, but patients like it, and so do I. I maintain a “boutique” type of practice and give my patients all the time they need.
Tell me about your relationships with your patients?
I am proud and appreciative that 80% of new patients choose me because someone they know, love, and trust is already a patient, and is happy with the results. This is the best award a surgeon can get. A mentor once said to me that you should never operate on a patient you wouldn’t want to have dinner with. There is some wisdom in this. I get to know my patients before I operate on them, so I can help them get back to the lives they want to live, whether it’s sports, playing with grandchildren, or just walking around the neighborhood.
What makes your practice different from other spine surgeons?
When you come to my office, my whole team is dedicated to taking care of you. Before surgery, we offer acupuncture, in-office pain management and diagnostic injections. If you are anxious, we can introduce you to a psychologist, specializing in pain management, who can accompany you during the surgical process.
I have expertise in many surgical areas, both traditional and minimally invasive. Whether you come to me with scoliosis, spinal stenosis, a herniated disc, failed back surgery, or any other type of back pain I will take my time, talk with you, and together we will decide whether modern technology or traditional fusion is the best treatment for you. Every patient condition is different and should be approached specifically.
After surgery, my team and I are always here for you. We offer acupuncture while you’re recovering and anything else you need to minimize the use of drugs and get you back to a pain-free, active life.
Do you offer online consultations for patients who live far from New York City—either abroad or in the United States?
Absolutely. Patients can send their MRI films electronically, and then we can discuss their options over the phone. With today’s technology, this is no problem at all. I speak English and French, and members of my team speak Chinese and Spanish.
If you weren’t a spine surgeon, what would you be?