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  Phone : 610.375.0500

All Posts in Category: Laparoscopic surgery

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

The Three Best Questions to Ask Your General Surgeon Before Surgery

Taking An Active Role in Planning For General Surgery

As consumers, it’s very much second nature for us to gather and sort through masses of information on countless products and services, choosing the one we think will work best.   When taking on the role of patient, however, sometimes there is a hesitancy to ask questions about concerns that could have a major impact on our health. If you can relate to the feeling of “I should’ve asked”, Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists would like to offer three of the best questions to ask your surgeon prior to general surgery.

Discussing General Surgery’s Surgical Methods

First, of course, is asking about the type of surgery and surgical method that will be utilized. Used to treat many conditions within the abdomen, including the colon and hiatal hernias, minimally invasive laparoscopic and robotic surgery uses keyhole-sized incisions to access and address areas of concern. As we shared in a previous post, What Is Minimally Invasive Surgery?, the advantage of minimally invasive laparoscopic and robotic surgery is a much quicker recovery period when compared to traditional open surgery with its large incision and lengthy recovery.

Become Familiar with Your Hospital

The second question to ask your general surgeon prior to surgery is equally important. Just as you select a surgeon based on comfort level and expertise, it’s best to become familiar with the surgical hospital where your surgeon will perform your procedure. Typically, surgeons are affiliated with specific surgical hospitals, so when you choose your surgeon, you are in effect also choosing the surgical hospital where your procedure will occur. Ask your surgeon what advantages the surgical hospital offers, compared to others in the area, so you have confidence in where your surgery will occur. In our practice, surgeons Dr. Thomas Beetel, Dr. Robert Howard, and Dr. Joseph Levan perform minimally invasive endoscopic, laparoscopic and robotic procedures at Surgical Institute of Reading, including laparoscopic treatment of incisional and inguinal hernias, reflux, as well as conditions of the colon and gallbladder.   Our practice is also affiliated with and performs procedures at Penn State Health St. Joseph and Reading Health, respectively.

For Your Health’s Sake, Ask Away!

Lastly, ask questions about what you can expect during your recovery period after surgery. How long will you stay in the hospital after surgery? Will you need to be driven home by a friend or family member after surgery? Will someone need to assist you with your personal care during recovery? How soon will you be able resume regular activities, including returning to work? Knowing the answer to these and other questions prior to surgery can make all the difference in having a positive surgical experience and outcome.

To Your Best Health,

Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists
2758 Century Boulevard, Suite 1
Wyomissing, PA 19610

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Dr. Thomas Beetle of Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists

Dr. Thomas Beetel to speak at Surgical Institute of Reading


Questions about GERD (Heartburn), Hiatal Hernias and Anti-Reflux Surgery?

Join Dr. Thomas Beetel at Surgical Institute of Reading as he presents:

“The Truth About Heartburn and Hiatal Hernia: When Do You Need Surgery?”.

When: Wednesday, March 30th at 5:30pm

Where:  Surgical Institute of Reading   2752 Century Boulevard  Wyomissing, PA  19610

To RSVP:  Please call 610.375.0500 by March 29th.  Reserve your seat by calling today!

There will be plenty of opportunities for questions during the presentation.

About Dr. Thomas Beetel
Dr. Thomas Beetel of Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists specializes in minimally invasive surgery, including laparoscopic procedures of the colon, esophagus and gallbladder, as well as laparoscopic hernia repair. His practice offices are conveniently located next to Surgical Institute of Reading in Wyomissing, PA.


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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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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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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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