For 30 years, Dr. Clifford Solomon has told patients that the best surgery is no surgery. But for a lot of people with acute and chronic neck or back pain, surgery can help them return to work, enjoy their favorite physical activities, and have a better quality of life.
University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center (UM BWMC) provides comprehensive care to patients with several spine disorders, injuries and deformities. Those include degenerative disc disease, disc herniation, myelopathies, sciatica, scoliosis, spinal stenosis, spine tumors and spondylolisthesis.
Physical therapy, acupuncture, massage and other treatments should be considered before surgery. If surgery is needed, Solomon said, it is not a scary outcome. Stenosis, or narrowing of the spinal canal, is one example.
“Surgery is a last resort, so we might ask the patient to try to lose weight; don’t smoke; work on core strengthening, yoga, Pilates; and do acupuncture,” said Solomon, the director of the Spine and Neuroscience Center at UM BWMC. “But if you really have stenosis, narrowing, and you’re miserable, most patients love us. We can clean up around the nerves to help patients walk better.”
The procedure usually takes less than an hour and patients are home within one day, with a full recovery time of four to six weeks.
Solomon said, “Many patients wake up and say, ‘I don’t know what you did to me. My back is a little sore, but I can tell you I got my wheels back. My legs feel great.’ And with no fusion. And I think that’s the big take-home point. Surgery is a last resort, and if you need surgery, less is more.”
That is just one example of how UM BWMC’s spine surgeons, all board-certified neurosurgeons, carefully evaluate each patient’s condition and consider all treatment options. They also put patients at ease by having them attend “spine school,” where a team of six nurses, nurse practitioners and physical therapists tells patients what to expect before, during and after surgery.
Solomon has seen the procedures benefit many of his patients and neighbors.
“One of my neighbors, I saw her in her sailboat and she was like, ‘I could never sail a catamaran by myself in my whole life.’ And she’s doing it now on her own,” said Solomon, who lived in Round Bay for about 20 years before moving to Annapolis in 2021. “I saw another neighbor out doing the lawn, which he could never do before.”
The high-quality care of Solomon and other doctors at UM BWMC has helped people from all over the world.
“Years ago, I operated on a guy from Belize who had a herniated disc, another common thing,” Solomon said. “He was a sugarcane worker. He had never seen a microwave oven. He had never seen an elevator. He went back to Belize, in the sugarcane fields. Over the years, I have heard from him, and he’s done great.
“These less invasive surgeries go a long way, whether it’s a herniated disc, which is what that young guy had from Belize, or whether it’s stenosis, which tends to be older people or younger people who are born with a small canal,” he added.
Over his 30-year career, Solomon has been in the operating room for the surgeries of two sets of craniopagus twins. He recently worked with fellow doctor Danny Liang to remove a brain tumor from a 20-year-old patient. He has saved and improved countless lives.
“We have just been really lucky to have a lot of nice things happen to our community just because people know that we are here and we are available,” Solomon said. “I have witnessed so many incredible things and I feel very grateful, very humble.”
The UM BWMC Spine and Neuroscience Center is located at 255 Hospital Drive, Suite 208, in Glen Burnie. For more information, call 410-553-8160 or visit www.umbwmc.org/neuro.
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