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Thread: Dr. L Lenke/Dr. K. Bridwell St. Louis, MO

  1. #1
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    Dr. L Lenke/Dr. K. Bridwell St. Louis, MO

    Has anyone been seen/treated by either of these surgeons? I have advanced lumbar scoliosis and live in Knoxville, TN. My doctor in Atlanta retired and I have to find another. I prefer not to travel that far but will do so for a highly respected surgeon in this field. Any help/ ideas/referrals greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
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    if you type Dr Lenke under "Search" (above) you will find both doctors referenced all over forum..

    jess

  3. #3
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    Drs Lenke / Bridwell

    If one does any lit search on scoliosis those two docs are some of the most prolific writers in peer reviewed journals ie Spine - very competent and responsible for training some of the younger orthos today

  4. #4
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    Lenke - admirable approach to limiting patient demand, compared

    But be forewarned. Dr. Lenke won't see you with a lumbar curve of "only" 53 deg. He won't see me even with a lumbar curve of 60 degrees and very degenerated disks. I'm told he might accept me if I have other disabling conditions - again, there are severity minimums, However, I'm not pursuing this avenue as I can't afford to wait in queue anyhow - he's booking too far out for my insurance and other constraints. So although you can get a lot of information searching (he will have operated on at least half a dozen members by Fall) there's no need to get excited about Dr. Lenke (as I did) if you don't meet his criteria.

    However, Dr. Bridwell (who trained him) IS accepting patients and is quite open. I am probably going to consult him soon. FWIW my reservations have to do with distance, as being 1400 miles from my home, St Louis is a long flight and impossible drive - thinking most of surgery and "what if's".

    I'm disappointed about Dr. Lenke (I would have preferred him), but I must say I respect his approach to keeping his patient load manageable. After all, as a most in-demand surgeon, he could easily do as Dr. Boachie does and set financial cut-offs instead - charging what the market will bear. You asked for recommendations, and so the name Dr Boachie (NYC Hospital for Special Surgery) comes immediately to mind, as another top surgeon. However, Dr. Boachie officially accepts no insurance plan. He also has a stern, rather condescending "gate-keeper" at his office. She is there to insure no one gets in even just for a consult, unless they are ready to pay full fee in case their insurance plan is not one they recognize as generous toward the surgeon. He doesn't even want to waste his time on a consult that may not lead to surgery, for financial reasons.

    Dr. Boachie 's surgical fee, depending on complexity, is at least 150K not counting consults, the initial one averaging $600. This is a typical "asking price" , I'm sure, but for him asking and getting are one!

    Dr. Lenke's surgical coordinator says his cut-offs are dictated by concern for a) who will take the really severe deformities otherwise, and b) awareness that waiting too long makes people with our problems not only suffer longer but also deteriorate meanwhile.

    Who can fail to admire such a compassionate approach to limiting his patient load according to the constraints of a 24 hr day? This is especially praise-worthy considering the money-mad society in which we live. Dr. Lenke even accepts Medicare, about which Dr. B's representative spoke to me with undisguised scorn. Note, that Dr. Lenke is expecting his time for clinical practice to be reduced soon by 30% when he assumes the presidency of the SRS (September), so he really has to be strict.

    I'm highlighting this difference because I think Dr. Lenke deserves admiration and I also because I am not enchanted with Dr. Boachie's selection approach, including the representative he chose to hire for compliance. It's true that he accepts some overtly charitable cases, but far fewer than his publicity suggests including in his native Ghana. I know this from his representative who elaborated on this fact, evidently in an effort to discourage me - not realizing it might contradict his careful PR campaign.
    Last edited by Back-out; 06-14-2010 at 05:20 PM.
    Not all diagnosed (still having tests and consults) but so far:
    Ehler-Danlos (hyper-mobility) syndrome, 64 dammit,
    main curve L Cobb 60, compensating T curve ~ 30
    Flat back, marked lumbar kyphosis (grade?) Spondilolisthesis - everyone gives this a different grade too. Cervical stenosis op'd 3-07, minimally invasive

  5. #5
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    hi mary ann
    sent you a private message...

    jess

  6. #6
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    I "qualified" to see Dr. Lenke but chose to see Dr. Bridwell instead because of less wait time, and also Bridwell trained Lenke in the first place. Both are excellent but Bridwell travels less, so presumably has more time to see patients. I also hear he is a bit more "conservative" than Lenke, whatever that means. Good luck!

    Evelyn
    age 41
    80* thoracolumbar; 40* thoracic
    Reduced to ~16* thoracolumbar; ~0* thoracic
    Surgery 3/14/12 with Dr. Lenke, T4 to S1 with pelvic fixation
    Not "confused" anymore, but don't know how to change my username.

  7. #7
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    I drove from Indianapolis to St. Louis to see Dr. Bridwell. It was almost a 6 hour drive each way and worth every minute spent on the road. He gave me the most thorough exam I have ever had. My appointment took a total of about 4 hours. He is not a warm fuzzy guy, but he knows his stuff and has so much experience. If I do have more surgery, I will strongly consider having him do it. He is very, very, very good. Also, his nurse and assistants are fabulous.

  8. #8
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    Wow! Either his calendar freed up the day you saw him or your case is highly unusual. I felt rushed when I saw him. I remember when I walked into his waiting room before 8:00 a.m., it was already filled with patients. I had a long wait and was afraid I might miss my flight back to Chicago that afternoon. When I finally got to see him, I donít think he spent more than 20 minutes with me. I must say though that within 15 seconds of reviewing my film, without any hesitation, he summed up a plan of action. One of the surgeons I saw in Chicago told me that Bridwell is brilliant.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by CHRIS WBS View Post
    One of the surgeons I saw in Chicago told me that Bridwell is brilliant.
    I've heard this said of more than one of the surgeons I have or will see. I wonder, though, if intellectual brilliance translates to the OR. Surgery is a special hands-on skill.

    One of the true surgical geniuses I've worked with (not for this problem) is almost entirely inarticulate. I learned this from another spinal neurosurgeon who trained under (and observed) him. Good thing too, as otherwise, I probably wouldn't have trusted him.
    Not all diagnosed (still having tests and consults) but so far:
    Ehler-Danlos (hyper-mobility) syndrome, 64 dammit,
    main curve L Cobb 60, compensating T curve ~ 30
    Flat back, marked lumbar kyphosis (grade?) Spondilolisthesis - everyone gives this a different grade too. Cervical stenosis op'd 3-07, minimally invasive

  10. #10
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    Mar 2008
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    28
    When I saw Bridwell, my total appointment took 4 hours. Bridwell did spend a lot of time looking at me and later my films. I do have very unusual problems, as I have Scheuermann's kyphosis, am fused from T3-L2, and now my curve has progressed up my spine. I now have a 104' curve in my upper thorasic/cervical area. He had to see a lot of different views of my spine and put the plan together. He did spend more than 20 minutes with me, probably 40-45 altogether. I spent a lot of time at X-Ray and spent some time after talking with Bernie, his nurse.

    I do think he is a top notch surgeon. I just wish he was closer to me.

  11. #11
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    Jul 2009
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    Missouri
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    I took my son To see Dr. Bridwell for the first time last week (for a second opinion on my son.) Dr Lenke wouldnt take any new appts for another 4-5 months! Dr. Bridwell is recommending surgery for my son asap, We will be returning to his office to meet with Bernie & discuss more . Our last appt took 3 hours, the xray dept and his office were very behind,they wanted us to stay longer I told them I prefer to reschedule the consult this week. Im glad to see such praise for Dr. Bridwell here.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Confusedmom View Post
    I "qualified" to see Dr. Lenke but chose to see Dr. Bridwell instead because of less wait time, and also Bridwell trained Lenke in the first place. Both are excellent but Bridwell travels less, so presumably has more time to see patients. I also hear he is a bit more "conservative" than Lenke, whatever that means. Good luck!

    Evelyn
    Just what I was referring to on the forum in a recent "thinking out loud" rumination about the meaning of conservative on the surgical contiuum.

    Rereading these comments makes me all the more eager to meet with Dr. Bridwell, though I find myself confused by feelings about his availability.

    It's kind of a serious, adult application of the adolescent reluctance to feel enthused about a prospective partner who is as just as eager and available as we are. It's been said well by many comedians, philosophers and psychologists, including Groucho Marx and Woody Allen - boiling down to devaluing anyone who isn't "hard to get".

    It WILL be fabulous to meet with a surgeon who has time to spend with me, though! (Hoping I don't get him on a bad day like ChrisWBS). I was pretty let down after a long, tiring trip to meet with my last consult. I computed our total face to face time as at most 20 minutes, adding up the time in-between his running in and out. That HAS to put a patient off (it did me). If a surgeon isn't willing to spend time with me now, while he's "wooing" me what can I expect later - least of all, if there are off-putting problems after the fact and I'm just a voice on the phone?

    And if there's one thing we learn reading this forum, it's how much harder it is to get a doctor's attention when there are problems! The nature of the Beast, I guess.
    Not all diagnosed (still having tests and consults) but so far:
    Ehler-Danlos (hyper-mobility) syndrome, 64 dammit,
    main curve L Cobb 60, compensating T curve ~ 30
    Flat back, marked lumbar kyphosis (grade?) Spondilolisthesis - everyone gives this a different grade too. Cervical stenosis op'd 3-07, minimally invasive

  13. #13
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    BTW - last consult...

    Of all the (well, three before him) surgeons I've met, he gave me the least time. After arrival (good and early), I passed two full hours in the examining room , alone, gowned and waiting for his august presence! And when he left after a too-short interview, I found myself chasing after him in the tiny middle hall, that joined the fanned-out examining rooms like the palm joins fingers.

    In my desperation, I was blathering on there with extremely personal questions (about the chances of the surgery's addressing continence problems - I have both kinds. ).

    When I realized what I was revealing to strangers, I blushed about more than my backside fanning in the wind!

    But again, I was desperate about his leaving after such a short interview and he really should NOT have left me with so little time! I can't think of a more serious surgery - moreover, one that requires the patient to choose a surgeon based on answers to serious questions . His P.A. was the youngest and most inexperienced too. I have to ask myself: "Did he really not want to accept me as a patient? Is he perhaps unsure of his chances of succeeding in an operation on me?"

    Ha! So much for my many, many hours of preparation including online here. Remember? "Issues to be sure to address", including psyching myself up to be open and quick on my feet depending on what he said to me first! It would (will?) be a shame to rule him out because of this, since he is by far the nearest to me. I can reach him in a three hour drive, and the local volunteer ride service could get me there too. That's very BIG to me here, as you know.

    And what WAS his very first spontaneous remark, to me? He asked me (looking a bit anxious IMO), what Dr. So-and-So had said to me! (This was one of the New York doctors I'd seen, this one from the Hospital for Special Surgery. He knew I'd been there because of the imaging I brought). Talk about off-putting!

    I stammered that with all due respect I'd rather share other opinions with him, after hearing what HE thought first, that I'd come to hear his expert opinion.

    He moved on, after an awkward silence which indirectly acknowledged the legitimacy of my polite refusal. Shortly after this, he left again (apparently to re-view my images). and when he returned with some words about his surgical plan, I never did get to ask my main questions - like estimated chances of success, his prior experience with "patients like me" , what he thought my rate of progression was (= deterioration), expectations for future surgery, etc.

    What does one do? I know if this had been a psychological interview, he would have failed it on grounds of lack of confidence and what might be behind it. Not to mention lack of consideration and insufficient rapport.

    But I can't afford to be so picky when my choices are as limited as they are - also, living at such a restrictive distance from good surgeons, especially with the cost and safety issues this creates.
    Last edited by Back-out; 07-07-2010 at 06:33 PM.
    Not all diagnosed (still having tests and consults) but so far:
    Ehler-Danlos (hyper-mobility) syndrome, 64 dammit,
    main curve L Cobb 60, compensating T curve ~ 30
    Flat back, marked lumbar kyphosis (grade?) Spondilolisthesis - everyone gives this a different grade too. Cervical stenosis op'd 3-07, minimally invasive

  14. #14
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    Oct 2005
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    Chicago north suburb
    Posts
    773
    Amanda,

    I can certainly understand your frustration. May I suggest that you contact this doctorís assistant and explain that you left your appointment with a lot of unanswered questions and ask if you could e-mail your list of questions to the doctor? If he responds to your satisfaction, then I would give him serious consideration. If his office is not accommodating, then I would cross him off the list.

    I interviewed six surgeons and was given anywhere from 5 minutes to more than two hours during my appointments. The surgeon who was most generous with his time was Dr. Hammerberg at Rush. He spent over two hours face time with me. I donít know if he customarily devotes that much time on an initial consult or if I just happened to catch him at a convenient time. I saw him two days before Christmas and as I recall, I hadnít noticed any other patients in the waiting room.

  15. #15
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    PA
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    THANK YOU, CHRIS!

    I just found this when I was checking the Search engine here for (of ALL things) "consult time"!

    Don't know how I missed it before. I think I need to get in the habit of checking responses to posts - something systematic. This was a near miss, and SO helpful!

    Yep, I guess the time we get is almost random. So many people have great things to say about Dr. Bridwell's thoroughness at consults but you got short shrift there, I remember.

    When I was scheduling with him on Monday, I commented that I was looking forward to a more comprehensive evaluation. "Jackie" kind of stammered that he only spent about 20 minutes with new patients and I was knocked flat.

    I'm going to send more imaging in advance along with some of my neuro concerns and maybe they'll be able to set me up with a neurosurgeon to see while I'm there. I'll just stay in town longer. Don't know why they expect us to come back for basic questions - not for such a serious operation. How do they expect us to decide otherwise? Besides, many of us (I sure do) have a lot of trouble managing the trip. I think they must just lose track of their patient population.

    The ones who live far away, are older and are already more disabled (alone too!) --- seems like they should set aside more time for us, especially after such a difficult trip. (Oh yeah, the ones who are poor too! )

    Oh, boo hoo hoo...
    Not all diagnosed (still having tests and consults) but so far:
    Ehler-Danlos (hyper-mobility) syndrome, 64 dammit,
    main curve L Cobb 60, compensating T curve ~ 30
    Flat back, marked lumbar kyphosis (grade?) Spondilolisthesis - everyone gives this a different grade too. Cervical stenosis op'd 3-07, minimally invasive

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