Patient successes, growing skills and merger growth: 1 surgeon's 2023

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Implementing a new spine surgery technique and advancing spinal research are among the top accomplishments for Nikhil Sahai, MD.

Dr. Sahai, of Wayne, N.J.-based University Spine Center, spoke with Becker's about how he has grown as a spine surgeon this year and the benefits of his practice's recent merger.

Question: What are you most proud of from this year?

Dr. Nikhil Sahai: Through our residency program, we've been getting a lot of research accepted and published this year. We're building on prior work, and everything's coming to fruition. We also published a decent amount this year. 

I've expanded my surgical tool belt with an anterior to psoas approach, and that's been going very well. 

I had a spinal cord injury patient who could only move one big toe when she came in, and she had a cervical spinal cord injury as well as a lumbar fracture, and she started walking four months post-op. Now she's walking without assistive devices. So that's been really rewarding, too.

Q: What have been the challenges with learning the anterior to psoas approach and then implementing it into your practice?

NS: There's a learning curve, but I'm fortunate to have partners who I can learn from and learn with. That's been really helpful to kind of flatten the learning curve, so to speak. I'm really grateful for them. Expanding to tougher cases through that approach, which I've been doing now, has been really rewarding.

Q: Are there any other procedures that you're looking to add to your arsenal in the coming year?

NS: I'm very comfortable with tubular work, but I may look into adding endoscopic to my arsenal over the next year.

Q: What's the most exciting research that you've been involved with this year and what are their findings?

NS: So we've looked at posterior cervical foraminotomy. We've looked at a lot of our own data on posterior cervical foraminotomy compared to cervical disc replacements and fusions and found that for unilateral cervical radiculopathy posterior cervical foraminotomies work well and are a pretty durable operation.

Q: What other healthcare trends are you following?

NS: One trend I've noticed a lot is insurance authorization hurdles and an increase in peer-to-peer requests, basically creating more administrative work for private practitioners in an effort in what seems like an effort to deny care.

Q: What else are you excited for looking ahead to 2024?

NS: My group merged with two other orthopedic groups, and we formed a multi-subspecialty group called OrthoEast. So I'm looking forward to the continued growth and success of that whole venture.

Q: What have been OrthoEast's successes so far? Any added benefits or challenges you've seen from merging? 

NS: We're all still in private practice and we're basically a bunch of collegial surgeons in the community who are kind of working together now. It's facilitated patient care because we can all kind of share information more easily. It's easier to get patients in quicker. I might have a patient that actually needs to see a hip specialist instead of a spine surgeon, and I can get that facilitated a lot easier and quicker.

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