Office Hours : M-F, 9am to 5pm
  Phone : 610.375.0500

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

Reflux Disease: Relief for a Common Condition

Reflux disease, also referred to as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), is a common condition affecting millions of people regardless of age. As we shared in a previous post, A Burning Issue: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, reflux is caused by acid escaping from the top of the stomach and travelling as far up as the throat, creating a very uncomfortable burning sensation many refer to as heartburn.

Making Sense of Reflux Symptoms

Besides heartburn, many people suffering from reflux experience other painful symptoms that can sometimes be confused with other conditions. The symptoms can include belching, chronic cough and hoarseness, pain in the upper abdomen or worsening of symptoms when bending over or lying down. Left untreated, reflux can worsen and in some instances, develop into cancer. With all of these factors in mind, it is vitally important to seek physician evaluation to properly diagnose and treat reflux as early as possible.

Non-Surgical Treatment for Reflux Disease

Relieving the pain associated with reflux is of course a physician’s first priority. In doing so, your physician will work with you to find the right treatment appropriate for your symptoms. Lifestyle changes, use of over-the-counter medications or simply raising the head of the bed may be sufficient in providing relief. In some cases, your physician may recommend use of medication to reduce stomach acid or speed up digestion to alleviate symptoms.

When Reflux Persists

If still bothersome, your physician may recommend surgical treatment to ultimately correct reflux. With reflux, the one-way valve between the esophagus and stomach is weakened, allowing stomach acids to travel back up into the throat. To effectively treat the condition, the surgeons at Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists utilize minimally invasive surgery to perform laparoscopic fundoplication to correct the one-way valve as needed.

Dr. Robert Howard, Dr. Thomas Beetel and Dr. Joseph Levan of Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists each provides non-surgical and surgical treatment of reflux disease. Surgical treatment is performed at Surgical Institute of Reading, conveniently located in the same complex as the Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists practice offices. To make an appointment to see Dr. Howard, Dr. Beetel or Dr. Levan at Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists, please call 610.375.0500.

Read More
Dr. Beetel

Dr. Thomas Beetel on WEEU’s “Health Talk” call-in show this Wednesday February 3rd from 6pm to 7pm

Have questions about common general surgical issues?  Here’s a great opportunity to speak directly with our own Dr. Thomas Beetel this Wednesday, February 3rd during WEEU’s “Health Talk” live call-in program from 6pm to 7pm.  Presented by the Berks County Medical Society, the show will feature Dr. Beetel taking your calls about common general surgery issues and problems.  To call in during the show, call WEEU at (610) 374-8800 or (800) 323-8800.

Read More

Olga and Zuleica earn their CCMA!

A big congratulations to Olga Rivera (left) and Zuleica Gonzalez-Ortiz (right) of Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists, who recently completed intensive training and testing 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 Olga’s and Zuleica’s studies.

Having previously earned their Medical Assistant credential, Olga and Zuleica’s new CCMA certification qualifies them both to expand their patient care responsibilities.  As multi-skilled healthcare providers, Olga and Zuleica are now certified to perform patient interviews, 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.

Our thanks to Olga and Zuleica for all the hard work to earn the CCMA! Congratulations!




Read More

Holiday office hours for Christmas and New Year’s


Our office schedule for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day is as follows:

Thursday, December 24, 2015: Open 9am to 12:00 noon

Friday, December 25, 2015: Closed

Thursday, December 31, 2015: Open 9am to 12:00 noon

Friday, January 1, 2016: Closed

Regular office hours resume on Monday, January 4, 2016.







Read More

Ensuring Best Cosmetic Outcomes after Breast Cancer Surgery

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

A new diagnosis of breast cancer is a life changing event. There are a million thoughts and questions that run through a person’s mind. What is my prognosis? What are the treatment options? How is this going to impact my ability to work or care for my family? One of the questions that many women are afraid to ask is “What am I going to look like after the surgery?” Some people feel this is an insignificant thing to ask when we are dealing with a serious health issue, but it is an important question and an important part of the physical and emotional healing process.

When I meet with my patients for the first time after their diagnosis is made I often tell them that I have two priorities in their treatment. The first priority is to CURE the cancer! The second priority is to make everything LOOK GOOD in the process.  These days the majority of breast cancer can be surgically treated with a “lumpectomy” which involves making an incision usually less than 2 inches in length. In most cases, these incisions heal beautifully with minimal change, if any, to the contour of the breast and alleviate the need for any further plastic surgery. For women who require mastectomy, the option of reconstruction is always discussed. In those cases, our practice makes arrangements with a plastic surgeon and coordinates all aspects of care to offer the full range of reconstruction options including “skin” and even “nipple sparing” techniques.

Cosmetic outcome is an important part of the physical and emotional recovery from breast cancer.  In my practice, it is always an integral part of the discussion and decision making process on treatment in helping patients get back to their best health and wellness.

If you have additional questions about breast cancer surgery and treatment options, make an appointment online to see Dr. Howard by CLICKING HERE.

Other related post written by Dr. Howard, “The Latest on Breast Cancer Awareness”




Read More
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.


Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.




Read More