By Sheryl Kraft
Better health, longer life, and more effective healthcare: These are things worth striving for. And now more than ever, with ongoing advancements and innovation in medical technology, they’re within the reach of many. Read on to learn about the latest innovations—and, in some cases, one-of-a-kind procedures and equipment—in healthcare in Westchester County.
Photo by WavebreakmediaMicro / Fotolia
Westchester Medical Center, Valhalla
Until recently, replacing a faulty heart valve required an open heart procedure called a sternotomy, in which the chest was surgically opened and separated in order to remove and replace an old, damaged valve with a new one. Westchester Medical Center is the first hospital in the Hudson Valley region and one of the first in the tri-state area to routinely offer Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR), an alternative, less-invasive treatment that reduces hospital stays and recovery time and involves only IV sedation and local anesthesia. The procedure is performed via a very small opening in the femoral artery of the groin, shoulder, or chest, where a replacement valve is wedged through a catheter into the aortic valve’s place. Once expanded, it pushes the old valve out of the way to take over the job of regulating blood flow. Having TAVR is similar to having a cardiac catheterization procedure, says Hasan Ahmad, MD, an interventional cardiologist. It improves both patient safety and comfort, and has a huge positive impact on the patient’s recovery time.
Mount Kisco Medical Group (MKMG), Mount Kisco
This state-of-the-art alternative to a traditional mammogram “is the biggest advancement in breast technology in years,” says John Basile, administrative director of radiology at MKMG. The practice was one of the first in the county to get this brand-new technology by General Electric, which offers the lowest dose of radiation among the 3D techniques. The resulting images are super-sensitive to breast distortions and masses; unlike a flat or static image taken in traditional mammography, “this is almost like seeing a movie through the breast,” in which the thin, cross-sectional images of the breast offer clear and well-defined details, notes Basile. Studies have found that 3D tomography has more accurate detection rates and finds more invasive cancers than traditional mammography. “We want every woman to get this,” he says. “It will be the future of your breast care.”
Phelps Memorial Hospital Center, Sleepy Hollow
No, it’s not a television network (although patients can watch TV during their treatments): HBO stands for Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, a medical treatment in which patients breathe pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber to treat damaged tissue and to aid with wound healing. Phelps, the oldest hyperbaric-medicine practice in Westchester, Putnam, and Dutchess Counties, has the most experienced team in the region and the largest chamber in the Northeast—so large that it is often compared to the cabin of a 727 aircraft. This is especially useful in emergencies in which several people need to be treated at once. “We recently saved a family of nine who suffered carbon monoxide poisoning,” recalls Owen O’Neill, MD, the program’s director. “Waiting for hours to be treated individually may have had deleterious outcomes; expediting treatment results in better outcomes for patients.”
Northern Westchester Hospital, Mount Kisco
A robot performing an operation on a human body might sound a bit impersonal—not to mention futuristic—but this sophisticated technique, using very small tools attached to a robotic arm, is anything but. Similar to laparoscopic surgery, robotic surgery is performed through smaller cuts than open surgery. A real-life surgeon sits behind the controls of instruments that translate hand movements into more precise movements of tiny instruments inside your body. The yield? A better range of motion, superior dexterity, and enhanced visualization during delicate surgeries. Jerald D. Wishner, MD, co-director of the Institute for Robotic and Minimally Invasive Surgery and medical director of the colorectal surgery program, is the first surgeon in the region to utilize this technology for patients requiring colon resection for both benign and malignant disease as well as gallbladder removal through a one-inch incision in the belly button. “As a designated training facility, we’re now able to share this surgical expertise with other hospitals nationally,” he says. “Many patients can benefit from reduced post-operative pain and trauma, smaller scars, less blood loss, a shorter hospital stay, and, in many cases, a faster recovery.”
Northern Westchester Hospital, Mount Kisco
There is no actual knife used in this bloodless procedure for treating brain injuries and diseases. Instead, a noninvasive cyberknife uses high-energy gamma radiation that passes harmlessly through healthy tissue to reach targets with extreme precision and minimal side effects. FDA-approved with more than 40 years of research and use, the surgery is performed under local anesthesia, allowing for communication between the patient and physician during the procedure. “By eliminating a surgical incision, trauma to surrounding delicate brain tissue no longer occurs,” says Alain C.J. de Lotbinière, MD, CM, FACS, FRCSC, medical director of the Gamma Knife Center. Most patients return home the same day and go back to their regular activities the next day with fewer long-term complications, he says. The hospital is the only Gamma Knife Center between New York City and Syracuse to offer patients this advanced head and neck cancer treatment.
NewYork-Presbyterian/Westchester Division, White Plains
NewYork-Presbyterian/Westchester Division, spanning more than 200 acres in White Plains, opened in 1894. Offering treatment for the full spectrum of psychiatric illnesses to treat all ages, from childhood through geriatric, it holds the distinction of being the first behavioral health hospital in the nation, and one of only 16 hospitals worldwide to be formally named by Planetree, Inc., as a “Planetree Designated Patient-Centered Hospital,” dedicated to innovation in ensuring that patients are cared for in a healing environment. Features include an open medical-record policy, non-restrictive visiting hours, healthy and abundant food options, and arts and entertainment programming. “Our patients receive the highest level of psychiatric care in a warm, welcoming environment where their psychological, physical, and spiritual needs are met by compassionate caregivers,” says Philip J. Wilner, MD, vice president of behavioral health. In addition, the hospital is the only one in New York State to accept male patients in its inpatient eating disorders unit and to have a special track offering culturally sensitive care designated to meet the social and religious requirements of Orthodox Jewish patients, called The Horizon at Westchester.
WESTMED Medical Group, multiple locations
Benign Prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a condition that interferes with the flow of urine through the urethra, is the most common prostate problem for men older than 50. Judd Boczko, MD, is one of the first physicians in the area to offer UroLift, a noninvasive, in-office procedure cleared by the FDA in 2013. Small implants are placed through a small needle to lift or hold the enlarged prostate out of the way and increase the opening of the urethra. UroLift has the fewest side effects of all the current surgical treatments (which can sometimes result in impotence or incontinence), and there’s usually no need for a urinary catheter post-procedure. Almost all patients can return to work the next day (with restrictions on heavy lifting and bicycle riding for about one week).