FRISCO - The first morning Dr. Dhruv Pateder arrived at the Steadman Hawkins Clinic in Frisco, he met with a 33-year-old who broke three bones in his spine.Whether or not surgery ends up being necessary, the man hopes to be better in time for ski season. And lucky for him, the odds for that happening are improved simply by Pateder's presence in Summit County.The doctor started last week as the first full-time spine specialist here.Previously, spine trauma patients would have to be transported to Denver, which could delay treatment for four or five hours and make recovery more difficult, he said. Now, they will not have to wait."I'm 10 minutes down the road," said Pateder who since he arrived he has been on-call for spinal injuries that come into St. Anthony Summit Medical Center. "The goal is to bring comprehensive spinal care to Summit."
This specialist moved to Silverthorne from Cleveland and started with the Steadman Hawkins Clinic last week. He has a background in orthopaedic and neurological spine surgery and has performed intensive surgeries that have taken up to 24 hours. Also, during his time training at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, he has been a part of cutting-edge research.His latest study will be coming out soon in medical journals. It describes a technique that during surgery on the top two vertebrae in the spine eliminates the risk of an injury to the small vertebral artery which runs to the brain - an injury that in the past has caused strokes in patients."Spine is still in an infantile stage as far as our understanding goes," Pateder said.When Steadman Hawkins contacted the doctor about moving to Summit County, it immediately peaked his interest. They've done "groundbreaking research for knee surgery" and he hopes to do the same working for them with spine, he said."So much of it hasn't been tapped. ... The high standards for sports I want to bring with spine," he added.Also, while Pateder will be working with everyone from newborns to the elderly, in this area there is a largely active population which gives him the opportunity to break into research that hasn't even been begun to be explored.
At the Steadman Hawkins Research Foundation, Pateder will be able to look at databases and do biomechanical research with cadavers to try new approaches while searching for the best way to deal with patient populations. He will be looking at how to amend approaches to best serve them.The complexity of the spine is why there is still so much unknown about back pain, said Pateder who hopes to help the area become as understood as the knee and other joints are today. "Spine surgery is still thought of as hard to come back from," Pateder said. "A lot of people are afraid of it .. They think they will be bedridden ... That is not the case."With minimally invasive techniques, people heal faster, need less rehabilitation, experience less pain and need less medication, he added. This is because the incision in the back goes from being about five inches to about an inch so less muscle has to be cut away from the area, which is what causes much of the pain, he said.Yet, in most areas of the country the traditional method is still done, he said. Many doctors haven't been trained in minimally invasive techniques. That is another reason why there is a lack of research, Pateder explained.He has been trained in both methods because in some cases, like for those with severe Scoliosis, minimally invasive surgery is not an option.
Still, Pateder's hope is to help patients avoid surgery as often as possible. "I always ask, 'How would I treat this person if they were my parents,'" he said. It was during his training working with his mentor, a well-known and now retired spine surgeon, Dr. John Kostuik, that Pateder decided what part of medicine he wanted to do.After helping the doctor with a hard case, the spine surgeon told him that he'd been doing these surgeries for 40 years and there is still so much he didn't know. That moment grabbed Pateder's attention."My goal is to find answers because they're out there," he said.Lory Pounder can be reached at (970) 668-4628, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.