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  Phone : 610.375.0500

All Posts in Category: Dr. Robert J. Howard

Picture of Dr. Robert Howard, Dr. Joseph Levan and Dr. Thomas Beetel of Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists

Get In, Get Out: Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists Provides In-Office Treatments

It’s understandable to put off having minor surgical procedures done, especially when it can involve taking time off from work and rearranging family responsibilities to schedule your care.

In conditions requiring only minor treatment, however, the surgeons at Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists – Dr. Joseph Levan, Dr. Robert Howard and Dr. Thomas Beetel – often provide in-office procedures to fully manage certain conditions. After surgeon evaluation of the condition, treatment of very common issues such as hemorrhoids and cysts, as well as biopsies, can often be provided in our offices conveniently located in Wyomissing.

If you have a question about a condition you are trying to manage, click here to make an appointment in our office  or call 610.375.0500 today to schedule an appointment with one of our surgeons.

Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists. General Surgery. Compassionate Care.


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Hernia repair surgery video

This brief video shows a minimally invasive laparoscopic hernia repair surgical procedure, performed by Robert J. Howard D.O., F.A.C.S. of Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists.

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A Burning Issue: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Many of us have occasionally experienced heartburn (which to clarify, has nothing to do with the heart), whether after Thanksgiving dinner or by lying down too soon after eating. If repeated bouts of “heartburn” or sour-tasting fluid in your throat have affected you, however, these are typical symptoms of a common health issue called gastroesophageal reflux disease (“GERD”), also referred to as reflux.

GERD is caused by acid escaping from the top of the stomach through a weakened one-way valve, and flowing backwards as far as the throat. To help ease symptoms, non-operative treatment such as the use of over-the-counter antacids, increasing exercise, placing a foam wedge at the head of the bed and prescription medication can be effective. If these and any other methods recommended by your physician do not provide relief, it may be necessary to consider surgical correction of this very manageable condition.

Surgical Care to Relieve GERD

GERD indicates the one-way valve between the esophagus and the stomach, called the lower esophageal sphincter (“LES”), is weakened and requires structural support. The condition can occur in patients of any age, from infants to mature adults.

Correcting GERD means repairing the LES. Typically repaired by minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery, surgeons recreate the LES by wrapping the very top of the stomach around the lower part of the esophagus. This correction allows the LES to close immediately after food passes through to the stomach, keeping acids intact.

Recovery from LES Surgery

Most LES repair surgeries occur via minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery. As we’ve shared in the previous blog What Is Minimally Invasive Surgery?, this type of surgery helps patients leave the hospital and return to work sooner due to the small keyhole incisions made during the procedure. Generally, when LES repair is performed via minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery, patients can expect to go home 1 to 3 days after surgery and return to work within 1 to 2 weeks.

Steps You Can Take

If you have any of the symptoms we’ve described and think you may have GERD, contact our office to schedule a complete diagnostic evaluation and discuss both medical and surgical options for effective treatment. Dr. Robert Howard, Dr. Thomas Beetel and Dr. Joseph Levan are all experienced with both workup and treatment of GERD. CLICK HERE to request an appointment online or call our office at 610.375.0500.

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Get To Know the Gallbladder

For many people, the gallbladder and its purpose is a bit of a mystery. “What is it?”, “What does it do?”, “How does its health affect me?” are a few of the questions we routinely discuss with our patients. The gallbladder is in fact one of the smallest components of our digestive system. Approximately 3 inches long and 1½ inches wide in adults, a healthy gallbladder is a small part of a larger system helping the body process food effectively.

Serving as the central storage and release point for bile, a fluid made by the liver, the gallbladder assists in digestion by releasing bile to help break down fats found in food. Normally, bile moves smoothly through the digestive system. When the gallbladder forms solid, crystalized gallstones blocking the ducts within the digestive system, however, bile cannot move freely from the gallbladder to other organs, and pain, discomfort or other symptoms can arise. In these cases when a painful gallbladder attack occurs, it may be a singular event or multiple attacks may occur. Unfortunately, once gallstones are detected it is very common for additional gallstones to form and cause ongoing pain.

Surgical Treatment of the Gallbladder

Especially in the case of recurring painful attacks, it may be advisable to surgically remove the gallbladder. Even with its minor role in the body’s digestive system, it appears that the contribution of a healthy gallbladder to the overall digestive process is minimal. When the gallbladder is removed, the liver is still able to distribute the bile it manufactures to other components of the digestion system without interruption. This is why removal of the gallbladder, for a vast majority of patients, presents little or no negative effects.

In most cases, laparoscopic surgery is used to access and remove the gallbladder. As we described in the blog post What is Minimally Invasive Surgery? , laparoscopic surgery is a minimally invasive technique using small keyhole incisions to provide access for a laparoscope to view the exact surgical site. This enables surgeons to precisely treat and remove troublesome issues affecting the body. Depending on a patient’s current health, prior surgeries and other factors, it may be necessary to surgically treat the gallbladder via open, more invasive surgery.

What This Means For You

Your surgeon is the best resource to discuss which surgical option is best for you. At the same time, it’s important for you to be an informed patient and feel comfortable asking any questions needed to fully understand your options. Dr. Robert Howard, Dr. Thomas Beetel, and Dr. Joseph Levan all provide surgical care of the gallbladder at Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists. To seek a consultation with one of our surgeons, make an appointment by CLICKING HERE.




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Aida and Jenni earn their CCMA!

Please join us in congratulating Aida Nieves (left) and Jenni Bellesfield (right), who just completed intensive training to earn their Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) certification.  Also pictured is Dr. Thomas Beetel (middle), who along with Dr. Robert Howard and Dr. Joseph Levan of Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists, fully sponsored Aida’s and Jenni’s studies.

Aida and Jenni enjoyed the incredibly challenging coursework the CCMA required. Having previously earned their Medical Assistant credential, their new CCMA certification enables Aida and Jenni to take their patient care responsibilities to the next level.  As multi-skilled healthcare providers, Aida and Jenni are now certified to perform tasks such as interviewing patients, measure and record vital signs, prepare exam rooms, clean and sterilize medical equipment, administer injections, perform venipuncture and assist with EKG’s, all under physician supervision.

Congratulations Aida and Jenni!  Thanks for all of your hard work to earn the CCMA!







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Laparoscopic Colon Surgery: Treating Diverticulitis and Inflammatory Bowel Disease

As discussed in one of our previous blog posts, Colon Cancer Surgery: Two Techniques to Ensure Best Outcomes, colon issues can often be treated by minimally invasive surgical procedures called laparoscopy.
Laparoscopy is the use of small keyhole incisions to access a surgical site. Using a very small video camera, a surgeon identifies causes of pain or discomfort and treats the condition accordingly. In addition to colon cancer, laparoscopic surgery is used to treat common issues of the colon such as diverticulitis and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Diverticular Disease

In its healthiest state, the lining of the colon is smooth in texture. Sometimes, small, balloon-like pouches form within the walls of the colon. Since the colon’s main job is to help expel waste out of the body, it is generally believed the pouches appear as a result of a low-fiber diet. The pouches indicate a condition called diverticulosis. Very uncommon among individuals under 40 years of age, diverticulosis is prevalent in approximately half of the population aged 60 years of age and older. Often, patients do not experience any pain or discomfort with diverticulosis, and the condition is only discovered due to routine testing such as a colonoscopy. In many cases, diverticulosis is effectively treated with medication and increasing fiber intake.

In cases where the pouches become inflamed or infected, however, a condition called diverticulitis occurs. Patients may experience abdominal pain, fever, cramping, and constipation, among other symptoms. Initial treatments can include antibiotics, but in recurring or severe cases, the use of surgical treatment may be required. In treating diverticulitis, minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery is used to remove the affected sections of the colon.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Like diverticulitis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) causes the lining the colon to become inflamed and irritated. Two types of IBD include Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Even though the symptoms of both are similar, the areas affected in the gastrointestinal tract are much different.

With Crohn’s disease, inflammation can occur at intermittent sections of the entire gastrointestinal tract and is not limited to the colon. Conversely, with ulcerative colitis, inflammation is limited to the colon.

Surgical Treatment 

When diverticulitis or inflammatory bowel disease need to be surgically managed, laparoscopic surgery offers the best of both worlds – effective treatment with minimal incisions. Treating these conditions proactively can help avoid the possibility of emergency surgery, which could result in the need for a temporary colostomy pouch. Laparoscopic surgery decreases recovery from a couple months to a couple weeks.

Dr. Joseph Levan, Dr. Thomas Beetel, and Dr. Robert Howard, each Fellows in the American College of Surgeons, provide laparoscopic surgical care for the colon. When you have questions about preventative and surgical care of the colon, make an appointment to see one of our providers by CLICKING HERE.

– Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists


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Colon Cancer Surgery: Two Techniques Ensuring Best Outcomes

As discussed in one of our previous blog posts, When to Have a Colonoscopy, the American Cancer Society states colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer for men and women in the United States today. With this high rate of cancer diagnosis, much emphasis is placed on best methods to surgically treat colon cancer to ensure best possible patient outcomes.

When receiving a colon cancer diagnosis, your surgeon is the best resource for answering the many questions you will naturally have in mind. The first question many patients have is in regards to the surgery itself. Today, there are two types of surgeries commonly used to manage colon cancer. Open surgery, the more traditional surgical technique, refers to the process of creating a large abdominal incision to access and treat the cancerous site. Laparoscopic surgery is the minimally invasive alternative to open surgery. With laparoscopic surgery, three or four small keyhole incisions are utilized along with a very small, flexible tube outfitted with a video camera to enable surgeons to clearly see the cancerous site and manage it as needed.   Sometimes, the images seen during a laparoscopic procedure require surgeons to convert to open surgery to effectively treating the cancerous site. Your surgeon will determine the surgery technique best suited to your care needs, factoring in information such as prior surgeries and other medical information. Above all, as a patient you should feel comfortable asking any questions necessary to fully understand your care options. When in doubt, ask!

At Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists, Dr. Joseph Levan, Dr. Thomas Beetel, and Dr. Robert Howard all take pride in having thorough discussions with patients prior to and after colon cancer surgery. With a combined 45 years of experience in treating colon cancer, Dr. Levan, Dr. Beetel, and Dr. Howard offer superior care in all phases of colon cancer management needed for your best possible outcome. Click here to make an appointment today.

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The Latest on Breast Cancer Awareness

Post written by Dr. Robert J. Howard, D.O., F.A.C.S.
Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists

October is “Breast Cancer Awareness” month and a good time to think about good breast health in general. Over the last 10 years there has been a significant increase in the amount of awareness in the general community. All you have to do is turn on the TV to see the pink spikes on NFL football players or watch the news reporting on one of the multiple runs or walks for the cure. These events coupled with some high profile celebrities discussing their own private battles with breast cancer have lead to more media coverage as well.

For the most part this has been very positive, however, there are still many misconceptions about breast care and breast cancer screening. In our office, we see many women come in with an “abnormal mammogram” and I am surprised how many are not aware that an abnormal mammogram DOES NOT necessarily mean you have breast cancer. In fact, less than 15% of women with an abnormal mammogram will be diagnosed with breast cancer. During a typical appointment we will review the mammogram images with our patients and present multiple options to make an accurate diagnosis in a minimally invasive manner.  Sometimes that may even include performing an ultrasound guided needle biopsy on the day of the first appointment.

Over the past ten years the treatment and diagnosis of breast cancer has improved significantly. With improved imaging we are able to diagnose smaller, early stage cancers and perform biopsies with a needle in a mostly painless manner. Often those biopsies can be performed during the initial consultation. With the advent of sentinel lymph node biopsy, we are now able to sample the lymph nodes with almost zero risk of a complication called lymphedema, or arm swelling which was very common and debilitating in the past. Improved radiation techniques mean less problems with skin irritation which was prominent in the past as well. Vast improvements in genetic testing and the implications of that testing allow us to make much more informed decisions about care and determine overall prognosis for the future.

There is still a long way to go, but significant progress has been made and the future is bright for continued improvements. As our knowledge of the genetic basis of breast cancer evolves, so do our chances of eliminating the disease completely. In the mean time, the best treatment is early detection. Monthly self breast exams and yearly mammograms when age appropriate will help identify most breast cancers. Then, evaluation by a physician with experience and knowledge of breast cancer is the key.  At Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists we take pride in our ability to present the latest information about breast cancer in an easy to understand manner.  Our job is to make sure our patients are informed so they have the ability to choose the treatment that makes them feel comfortable and confident. In conjunction with regional cancer centers, we provide the most advanced treatment options available. Hopefully you will never need our services, but if you do, you can rest assured you will be well informed and treated in a very caring and compassionate manner from diagnosis to cure.

– Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists –

If you have additional questions about breast cancer care would like to make an appointment for a consultation with Dr. Howard, you can request an appointment online by clicking here, or call our office at 610.375.0500.

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