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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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Serving our patients better – SRSS healthcare staff earning CCMA certification

Aida Nieves (left) and Jenni Bellesfield (right), medical assistants at Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists, are currently attending Reading Area Community College to earn their Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) credential.  Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists is fully sponsoring Aida and Jenni in their studies.

The intensive training is offered to multi-skilled healthcare providers and certifies their readiness 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 the physician supervision. The CCMA certification is in addition to Aida’s and Jenni’s previously earned Medical Assistant credential.

As they began their classes, Aida and Jenni were thrilled and surprised to be told by their instructor that Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists is the first local healthcare employer to sponsor employees in achieving the CCMA credential through RACC. Says Aida, “It was really nice to be in class and hear that SRSS is doing something no other healthcare provider is doing yet. That’s really great news for our patients.”

Please join us in congratulating Aida and Jenni on their CCMA training and certification!

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Multi-generational family portrait

Hernia Repair – Today’s Surgical Advancements

Hernia Repair – Much Easier Now Than in the Past

Decades ago, a hernia diagnosis meant the need for open surgery, resulting in large incisions and scaring, a typical postoperative hospital stay of several days and an uncomfortable recovery period of up to several weeks. These conditions meant patients were not able to return to work quickly as desired, as well as a lengthy timeframe of limited physical activities. Understandably, patients were often reluctant to seek surgical treatment for hernia repair knowing what would likely lie ahead. Oh, how times have changed!

Today’s Hernia Repair Surgery – Definitely Not Your Father’s Hernia Surgery

With the development of laparoscopic minimally invasive surgery specifically addressing hernias in the 1990’s, surgical repair of the condition became much more accessible, manageable and above all, presented faster recovery periods for patients. This is attributable to laparoscopic surgery’s small “keyhole” incisions, placed strategically on the abdomen to both maximize access to the affected area as well as minimize recovery periods due to smaller incisions. In fact, in most cases patients can walk out of the hospital the same day as their procedure, experience much less postoperative pain and can be back to work in just a week or two. Unfortunately, however, the perception persists that hernia surgery means patients have to put life on hold for weeks. This is simply no longer the case.

By the Numbers

It is estimated that approximately 10 percent of the population is confronted by some type of hernia issue throughout their lives. Hernias impact all age groups, including infants, children, teenagers and adults. Each year, approximately 500,000 hernia surgeries are performed in the United States, but it is suspected that an even larger number of patients suffering from hernias delay treatment hoping the issue will go away on its own. The reality is, however, hernias do not repair themselves and if left untreated, severe cases can progress to the point where patients can find themselves in the emergency room.

Getting Back to an Active Life

The good news is that proper treatment and recovery from hernias is very achievable when discussed with a primary care physician or surgeon upon discovery of possible hernia-related abdominal pain or bulging. After a typically brief postoperative recovery period, it is common for patients to feel like themselves in just a couple weeks.

Dr. Thomas Beetel and Dr. Robert Howard of Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists specialize in laparoscopic hernia repair. If you have questions and wish to request an appointment online, CLICK HERE.

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Birthday cake with "50" candle on top

When to have a colonoscopy

A Preventative Measure at Milestone Birthdays

As we age, our self-care regimen needs to grow along with us. Beginning at age 50, what can help keep us healthy is a steady diet of preventative testing to diagnose and treat emerging health concerns.

Among such health care concerns is colorectal cancer, one of the most common forms of cancers among men and women in the United States today. According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer, not including skin cancers. In total, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 20. At the same time, colon cancer is one of the most preventable cancers through the use of regular colonoscopies.

Early Action is Key

Providing a suggested timeframe for screenings to detect polyps, the American Cancer Society recommends men and women at average risk for cancer receive colonoscopies every 10 years starting at age 50. Essentially, as a milestone birthday is celebrated starting at age 50, it can serve as a timely reminder to have a screening. Very generally speaking, the earlier screenings occur to detect the presence the potentially cancerous polyps, the better chances are to successfully treat the polyps by surgical removal. Of course, if symptoms such as bleeding or pain are experienced at any time it is important to see a qualified medical provider experienced in colon care as soon as possible.

What to Expect 

As mentioned in one of our previous posts Have questions about endoscopy?”, preparing for a colonoscopy requires patients to follow pre-operative preparation instructions provided by their surgeon prior to the brief surgical procedure. To maximize patient comfort, sedating medication is used during the procedure. Best of all, patients are typically discharged less than an hour after the procedure is performed.

If a biopsy is performed during the colonoscopy, patients of Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists can expect to receive test results within just a few days, if not sooner, as well as a thorough follow up discussion with their surgeon.

Where Will My Procedure Occur?

Dr. Joseph Levan, Dr. Thomas Beetel and Dr. Robert Howard perform colonoscopies at Surgical Institute of Reading, Reading Hospital and St. Joseph Medical Center, depending on patient preference, scheduling availability and insurance requirements.

To make an appointment to see Dr. Levan, Dr. Beetel or Dr. Howard, request an appointment online by CLICKING HERE.


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What does “F.A.C.S.” mean?

If your surgeon’s name is followed by “F.A.C.S.”, according to the American College of Surgeons website, “it indicates the surgeon’s education and training, professional qualifications, surgical competence, and ethical conduct have passed a rigorous evaluation, and have been found to be consistent with the high standards established and demanded by the College.”

Simply put, “F.A.C.S.” is an earned credential indicating surgeons committed to care excellence. Surgeons who earn this important credential are therefore members of the American College of Surgeons and known as “Fellows” of the American College of Surgeons, thus “F.A.C.S.”

Why this is good news for you

Again according to The American College of Surgeons website, the organization “was founded in 1913 to improve the quality of care for the surgical patient by setting high standards for surgical education and practice.” The College is the largest organization of surgeons in the world, with approximately 80,000 members. What this means for patients is a F.A.C.S.-credentialed surgeon has not only demonstrated commitment to care excellence but also has a large community of peers from which to maintain knowledge of the latest surgical developments. When searching for highly qualified and experienced surgeons, be sure to ask a surgeon if he or she has obtained the F.A.C.S. credential.

Dr. Levan, Dr. Beetel and Dr. Howard of Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists have all earned their F.A.C.S. credential, so you can be sure you are receiving care committed to excellence. Read each surgeon’s bio by CLICKING HERE.

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Dr. Thomas Beetle of Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists

Meet Dr. Thomas Beetel

Meet surgeon Dr. Thomas Beetel of Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists by CLICKING HERE to read his full bio, areas of expertise including minimally invasive surgery, and his specific patient care philosophy.

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Have questions about endoscopy?

To help patients better understand endoscopy, Dr. Howard, Dr. Levan and Dr. Beetel (left to right) present the following information.

What is endoscopy?

Endoscopy is an umbrella term referring to the process of diagnosing gastrointestinal tract issues. Surgeons utilize an endoscope, which is a long, narrow, flexible operative instrument containing a very small video camera outfitted with a high-powered light to help detect abnormalities.

For gastrointestinal problems of the esophagus, stomach and the duodenum (first part of the small intestine), an upper GI endoscopy is performed to detect and diagnose ulcers, gastritis, polyps, causes of bleeding or pain, and cancer.

For problems related to the colon, such as inflammation, bleeding or pain, and for colon cancer screening, a lower GI endoscopy is performed. When the entire colon requires examination, the procedure is referred to as a colonoscopy. When a partial examination occurs, such as the rectum and the sigmoid colon (first part of the colon) only, the procedure is called a sigmoidoscopy.

What to expect

Endoscopic procedures require patients to follow pre-operative preparation instructions provided by their surgeon prior to surgery such as limiting food and drink intake a day or two before surgery as well as use of colon cleansing kits.  In most procedures, sedating medication is used to maximize patient comfort. A minimally invasive surgery, endoscopic procedures typically allow patients to be discharged less than an hour after the endoscopy is performed.

If a biopsy is performed during endoscopy, patients of Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists can expect to receive test results within just a few days of the procedure, if not sooner, as well as a thorough follow up discussion with their surgeon.

Where will my procedure occur?

Dr. Levan, Dr. Beetel and Dr. Howard perform endoscopic procedures at Surgical Institute of Reading, Reading Hospital and St. Joseph Medical Center, depending on patient preference, scheduling availability and insurance requirements.

If it has been recommended to you either by your primary care physician or other care provider that an endoscopy is warranted, rest assured Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists provides the expertise needed for a positive experience before, during and after surgery.  To make an appointment to see Dr. Joseph Levan, Dr. Thomas Beetel or Dr. Robert Howard, you can request an appointment online by CLICKING HERE.


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Have you met Dr. Robert Howard?

Thank you to all those who read Dr. Robert Howard’s recent post, “The Latest on Breast Cancer Awareness.”  To learn more about Dr. Howard, including his medical credentials and patient care philosophy, read his full bio by CLICKING HERE.


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Meet Dr. Joseph Levan

Read Dr. Levan’s bio to view his medical credentials, areas of expertise and why he is so dedicated to providing the very best care for his patients.   CLICK HERE to read Dr. Levan’s bio now.



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