Access to Spinal Care in Northern Kentucky Receives a Boost
July 8, 2016
Beacon Orthopaedics welcomed David Sower, MD, to its clinic in Erlanger, with the goal of providing better access to spinal care in Northern Kentucky. Partnering with orthopaedic surgeon Michael Rohmiller, M.D., who specializes in spinal procedures, Dr. Sower will focus on non-surgical treatment and care for patients with spinal injuries. Dr. Sower grew up in Fort Thomas and graduated from Highlands High School. At medical school at the University of Kentucky, he met Dr. Rohmiller, where the foundation for this partnership began to set.
After completing his residency at the University of Kentucky, Dr. Sower practiced emergency medicine locally for 14 years. He looks forward to the transition from emergency medicine to Beacon’s clinical setting, which he expects will offer stronger, more enduring relationships with his patients.
“We want to be accessible,” says Dr. Sower. “We want a patient to feel as if they can call in and ask a question of their physician or office staff and get a timely response.” He sees this as one of the core challenges confronting healthcare practitioners. “It’s one of the most common patient complaints across healthcare organizations. They want access to physicians and timely care. They want to get to the bottom line more quickly.”
The partnership between Dr. Rohmiller and Dr. Sower will facilitate greater access to spinal care in Northern Kentucky. Established in 2013, Beacon’s Northern Kentucky location is seeing more patients with spinal injuries and conditions. Dr. Sower explains, “Initial exams often result in the need for physical therapy or MRIs and other things that don’t immediately require surgical care. So the premise of our practice is to bring in another physician, which is me, to decrease the time that it takes.”
This enables Dr. Sower to triage patients with neck or spine injuries and determine the best course of treatment. If exams and diagnostics present non-surgical options, which is the preferred course, Dr. Sower treats them himself. Although spinal injuries encompass a host of diagnoses and treatment approaches, the majority of patients suffer from conditions such as cervical spine pain or lumbar disc disease for middle-aged patients and spinal stenosis for elderly patients.
Each of these typically present with pain and radiating symptoms that restrict movement and activity.
“A lot of these patients get better non-operatively, that’s the good news. The regimen often requires a visit, usually involving some X-rays or often times an MRI, to identify more specifically the disease processes,” comments Dr. Sower.
Depending on the diagnosis, patients can be treated with physical therapy, which focuses on stabilization and core strengthening as well as pain management strategies including epidural steroid injections and radiofrequency ablation, where electrical currents are used to desensitize a small area of nerves.
Using these strategies, the majority of patients see significant improvement, although a small percentage require further care. “Patients who get through all of those things and are still symptomatic with conditions like with significant disc disease will move on to surgical intervention.” The Northern Kentucky location installed a Philips Ingenia 1.5T Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) unit to provide greater access to care. The instrument will enable greater diagnostic power both in terms of accessibility and location.
Dr. Sower envisions patients attending an initial appointment and if warranted, having the option to undergo imaging the same day. This reduces the traditional approach where a patient will wait a week or two for an initial appointment and then another week or two for an imaging appointment.
“We’re a new clinic so same day appointments are available,” Dr. Sower says. “With the MRI on-site we can get that done right after the clinic visit.”
Adding the MRI is another big step forward in providing a full range of services to Northern Kentucky residents. Beacon added full-service physical therapy care to the Erlanger location in 2014. The response has been so impressive that the facility was expanded last year to improve patient care. “A lot of our patient population involves hard-working, middle-
aged patients who can’t do the things they enjoy anymore,” clarifies Dr. Sower.
“That’s the real premise, helping people get back to a satisfactory level of activity so they can do their gardening on the weekend or play tennis or golf or pick up their grandkids,” he continues. “For others, their employment depends on their rehabilitation. That’s the key, to be able to rehabilitate, giving people more freedom to return to their activities and daily living is the exciting part.”