by Len Lear
As of June of this year, advanced brain and spinal care are now available in Chestnut Hill. At that time, Dr. Neil Malhotra, 38, a highly regarded neurosurgeon, came to Penn Medicine Chestnut Hill at 33 E. Chestnut Hill Ave.
Dr. Malhotra’s expertise includes the evaluation of all brain, spine and central nervous system conditions. He treats brain and spinal disorders, including herniated disc repair, canal decompression, tumor treatment and alignment correction.
An Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital, Dr. Malhotra’s primary research interests focus on restorative approaches to treat degenerative disc disease to reduce the need for invasive surgery and offer better treatment for those who do not meet rigorous surgical criteria.
Throughout his career Dr. Malhotra has consistently volunteered his time to develop methods to improve the care of neurosurgical patients. He has led committees to reduce hospital infections and patient falls and improve the patient experience. He has dedicated time to develop and assess all possible technologies employed by all specialties providing treatment for spine disorders.
As part of his service to the Chestnut Hill community, Dr. Malhotra agreed to answer the following questions:
Why was the decision made to move to Chestnut Hill?
• Chestnut Hill has been without a covering neurosurgeon for some time. My colleagues and I have made ourselves available to a number of areas with limited access (Valley Forge, Cherry Hill, etc.), so when I was offered the opportunity to serve the Chestnut Hill area, it made sense to me. The way I view it is that it is somewhat of a hardship for patients to get down to Penn (especially my elderly patients), so if there are enough patients in need, I will come to them.
What services will now be available to area residents that were not available before?
• Opportunities for local evaluation for brain, spine and peripheral nerve disorders. Disorders that patients face include brain lesions such as tumors, aneurysms, neck and low back problems, sciatica and peripheral nerve disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome.
When exactly did your office open at 33 E. Chestnut Hill Ave.?
• I believe it was June 28. However, that practice, primary care, has been there for some time and is generously sharing space so that I can support the Chestnut Hill community.
What age range do most patients with brain and spinal disorders fall into?
• It is fairly diffuse. Some examples: Brain lesions, such as tumors, can affect all ages. Disc herniation and sciatica are usually found in the young to middle-aged. Spinal stenosis with leg cramping usually comes later in life. Hand problems from cervical (neck) spinal stenosis usually present themselves in patients in their late 60s to early 80s.
I know you have an interest in developing less invasive techniques. Do most of your patients require surgery?
• Most patients do not require surgery. About 20-30% will need definitive intervention.
Can most patients with a brain or spinal disorder expect a full recovery?
• It depends very much on what the disorder is, with some problems being curable, and with some problems we have a primary goal of inhibiting progression. At some point damage to the nerves become permanent, so early evaluation is critical.
For how many months or years do most of these patients require ongoing care?
• For those who require surgery, ongoing care is usually not required. For some disorders long-term therapy is sometimes needed.
What kinds of advances have been made in recent years in the treatment of degenerative disc disease, tumors, alignment corrections, etc.?
• Our surgical approaches and our medications have advanced significantly. Recovery from spinal surgery appears to be quicker and requires shorter hospital admissions. Some procedures can now be completed as an outpatient. Our imaging (ieMRI) has improved significantly. We can better predict critical brain function and use this to guide our resection of brain tumors.
What kind of success have you had in reducing patient falls, hospital infections, etc.?
• In some cases fairly dramatic. We know now that there are no easy answers, and we must always strive for improvement. However, we have nearly completely eliminated central line infections. We were told this would not be possible when we set out to do it.
Does Penn Medicine plan to stay in Chestnut Hill permanently?
• We will always have a relationship with the Chestnut Hill community.
I know you went to the University of Virginia. Are you from Virginia originally?
• Ohio originally. My family is mostly in D.C. and Virginia now. I have been married for more than 10 years to Rachel, a teacher, and have two children. We have been in Philadelphia for nearly 12 years and love it here.
For more information or to make an appointment, call 800-789-7366 (PENN), or visit PennMedicine.org/neurosurgery