Category Archives: Expert Health Advice

Activate Your Defenses Against the Flu

Posted on: October 12, 2015

Activate Your Defenses Against the Flu

This year, government analysis indicates the vaccine will be a good match for this year’s flu strains. Read on…

By Dr. Debra Spicehandler

Believe it or not, it’s already flu shot time. If you haven’t already scheduled one, now is the time. Gaining full immunity can take about two weeks, and you want to make sure you’re protected before the flu begins circulating in your community.

You may have heard that last year’s vaccine didn’t offer as much protection as usual, but that’s no reason to skip the shot this year. Developing the yearly flu vaccine is a complex process: Several months in advance of flu season, public health officials have to predict which strain of flu virus will be most prevalent come winter in order to give vaccine makers time to produce the nearly 180 million doses America requires. Occasionally, the predictions miss the target—or the target moves. In 2014, the flu virus mutated after the vaccine had shipped. As a result, the shots were only about 13% effective, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This year, a recent government analysis indicates the vaccine will be a good match for this year’s flu strains. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older should get the vaccine, which now comes as a needle injection, a jet (air) injection, and a nasal spray. You can get vaccinated at your doctor’s office, your workplace, or at local pharmacies, health departments, and schools.

Flu shots are available right now, and the sooner you get your dose the better. It takes about two weeks for immunity to kick in, and you want to be sure you have immunity before the virus starts circulating in your area. People who should be first in line are those at higher risk for complications from the flu, such as the elderly, young children, and anyone with a compromised immune system. You can rest assured that the vaccine is safe; the only reason to avoid it is if you have a history of an allergic reaction to the shot. (By the way, you do need to get a shot every year—immunity doesn’t carry over.)

In order to protect against catching the flu, get the vaccine and be careful to always wash your hands. If symptoms do develop, see your doctor. If you test positive for the flu, you can get a prescription for antiviral drugs, which can reduce your symptoms and help you heal faster.

Find a flu vaccine location near you…

Editor’s Note:
Debra Spicehandler, MD is Co-Chief, Division of Infectious Diseases at Northern Westchester Hospital

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Dr. Peris Discusses Relief from Back Pain

Posted on: September 16, 2015

How to Treat Your Aching Back

By Dr. Marshal Peris

You’ll be happy to hear that most people recover from back pain within a few days just by taking it easy, continuing gentle activity, and using over-the-counter pain medicine such as naproxen (Aleve) or ibuprofen to ease their pain. If the pain doesn’t resolve itself within a week or so, your doctor may suggest physical therapy where you can learn stretches and ways of moving that will ease the strain on your back.

If you are still experiencing pain, prescription pain medications and possibly steroid injections to reduce swelling in your back are likely next steps. Your physician may recommend imaging to determine if abnormalities in your spine are causing your pain. If your back pain doesn’t get better using these more conservative methods, your doctor may refer you to an orthopedic surgeon to determine if surgery can help. Sometimes abnormalities in the vertebrae or the soft discs that cushion your spine can press on spinal nerves and cause pain or numbness in your legs and make it difficult to walk or stand. In such cases, surgery can help immensely.

Your orthopedic surgeon will explore your options with you, and the two of you can decide on the best approach. The good news is that the surgical solutions for back pain are improving all the time. One exciting development used at Northern Westchester Hospital is direct lateral fusion, which can address back abnormalities that cause chronic pain. As “lateral” implies, the surgeon works from the side of the patient. This advanced technique is much less invasive and allows us to achieve amazing results. The incision is much smaller and we don’t have to fuse as many vertebrae to get great results. It’s often a simpler, more effective treatment, and patients are usually up and moving after one day (instead of three to four) and typically leave the hospital after three to four days versus six to seven. The vast majority of patients are much happier and back to their normal activities much sooner.

Editor’s Note: Marshal D. Peris, MD FAAOS is the Co-Director of Spine Surgery at the Orthopedic & Spine Institute at Northern Westchester Hospital.


The Clever Cook: Back to School Lunchbox Learning

Posted on: September 8, 2015

The Clever Cook: Back to School Lunchbox Learning

By Amy Rosenfeld

Getting in the back-to-school swing after a relaxing, stress-free summer might be difficult, but Banana Sunbutter Sushiit’s definitely doable. Here are some tips to get lunchbox organized:

1) Start a lunchbox meal planner and start a rotation. It may sound silly but taking the task of thinking of ideas out of your daily routine is a real time saver.
2) Get organized with great lunchbox materials. Stock up on a variety of portable containers, including many sizes for hot and cold packing.
3) Make recipes ahead and freeze. As much as you can do ahead of time, the better off you will be. One way to get started: make soups ahead and freeze in ice cube trays for easy defrosting.
4) Make time to pack lunches ahead. Pack ahead as much you can on the weekends for easy lunchbox stuffing. Get the kids to help and make an assembly line into a game! Then, take a few minutes at night to pack lunches instead of during the morning rush.

Fun and easy out-of-the-box lunchbox ideas:

1) BYO Pita Pizzas – Pack the tools they need to make their own pizza at lunch. Pack different sauces like tomato, pesto, or hummus as the base and send a variety of cheese and veggies for toppings. Here is a great example of hummus pizza:
2) Whole Grain Pasta and Noodle Salads – Cold and hot noodle or pasta salads can be an easy way to get all the food groups. Experiment with different types of pasta, everything from Asian Buckwheat Noodles to Orzo Salad:
3) Summer Soups with Grilled Cheese Dippers – Who doesn’t love soup in a thermos? Add a side of grilled cheese dipper strips and you have a balanced, delicious lunch. Plus, soup is an easy, nutrient rich make-ahead meal for a whole week of lunches or from the freezer. Try this End of Summer Soup Recipe:
4) Bento Box – Make meals out of snacks. Make sure to include proteins, including cheese, nut butters, tuna/egg/chicken salad, or sliced turkey or chicken, and a whole grain, like whole grain crackers or pretzels. Experiment with different dips like hummus, guacamole and veggie dips. Add a side of fruit and veggies.
5) Breakfast in a Box – Your little one doesn’t like lunch food? Pack a brunch style lunch with breakfast foods instead. Add yogurt parfaits, cottage cheese with fruit, whole grain pancakes or waffles, sweet and savory muffins, and hardboiled eggs.

Try NWH’s Sunbutter Sushi:

(serves 1)
1 6” tortilla wrap
1 banana, whole
1 tbsp sunflower seed butter*
1 tsp chocolate shavings

*Feel free to substitute peanut or almond butter as great alternatives!

1) Lay the tortilla on a flat surface. Spread the sunflower seed butter evenly over one side of the tortilla.
2) Place the banana on one edge of the tortilla. Roll the banana inside the tortilla until completely rolled up. Slice the tortilla into 6 even pieces (like sushi).
3) Dip each piece of sushi into the chocolate shavings. Eat immediately or wrap for an easy snack on the go!

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 370 calories, 13 g fat, 1.1 g saturated fat, 390 mg sodium, 55 g carbohydrates, 8.5 g fiber, 10 g protein
Breakfast for Lunch: Silver Dollar Oatmeal Pancakes

(serves 4, make 16 silver dollar cakes)
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup old fashioned oatmeal
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 ¾ tsp baking powder
1 egg, beaten
1 cup skim milk
4 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
1 cup fresh berries
1 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
1 tbsp pure maple syrup

1) Preheat the griddle on medium heat and the oven to 200 degrees.

2) While the griddle is heating up, in a large bowl mix all the dry ingredients. Make a small well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the egg, milk, applesauce to the center. Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet until just combined. Do not over-mix – some lumps are ok. Let the batter stand for about 5 minutes.

3) Spray the grill with cooking spray. Using a small ladle, spoon batter carefully onto the grill – 1 ladles per pancake. Do not touch until you start to see some bubbles start to form on the surface.  Add a few berries to each cake. Cook for about another 1-2 minutes.

4) As each pancake is done, place in the oven to stay warm. Mix the Greek yogurt with pure maple syrup and top with a dollop of Greek yogurt on each pancake.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 320 calories, 4 g total fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 600 mg sodium, 60 g carbohydrates, 4.5 g fiber, 9.5 g protein

Editor’s Note: Amy Rosenfeld, M,S RD, CDN is a Registered Dietitian at Northern Westchester Hospital

NAVIO robot-assisted partial knee replacement

Posted on: September 3, 2015

Amazing New Mobility after Advanced NAVIO Partial Knee Replacement Surgery

By Dr. Victor Khabie

Recently, advanced NAVIO robot-assisted partial knee replacement surgery was performed for iStock_18235142_RET3_HiRezthe first time in New York State at Northern Westchester Hospital. The technology uses sophisticated computer modeling that lets the surgeon create a unique, individualized surgical plan and then simulate that plan prior to surgery. The result is a transformation of partial knee replacement surgery – a great leap forward in precision and accuracy. The result for patients? A remarkable new option that restores natural movement as never before possible.

When painful and debilitating arthritis of the knee limits a person’s day-to-day activities, and all non-surgical measures have failed, the person is a candidate for knee replacement surgery. When it affects the whole knee, surgeons perform a full knee replacement. But when arthritis affects only part of the knee, most surgeons still perform a full knee replacement because until now, a partial replacement was a difficult and imprecise procedure. So much so that up to 30 percent of people getting a full knee replacement are actually candidates for a partial knee replacement.

Partial knee replacement requires that the implant synchronize perfectly with the remaining healthy portion of the knee, leaving almost zero leeway for surgical error. If the surgeon miscalculates by even a few millimeters in removing bone to make way for the implant, it will not fit properly. However, when successful, a partial knee replacement offers dramatic advantages, especially to those who enjoy an active lifestyle. The healthy parts of a person’s own knee are preserved, and the knee retains a more natural feel. Typically, the patient remains fully active. Why tear down the whole house just to renovate one room?

 unheard-of mobility post-surgery

Now, thanks to the precision of robot-assisted partial knee replacement surgery, that is no longer necessary. The breakthrough technology offers suitable candidates a viable alternative to a full knee replacement, and makes possible unheard-of mobility post-surgery. This leading-edge technology can provide patients suffering from arthritic pain another 10 to 15 years of an active lifestyle. What’s more, within just a few weeks of surgery, many patients are back to skiing, swimming, golfing, even playing tennis.

How does robot-assisted partial knee replacement surgery achieve
unprecedented results?

The NAVIO technology lets the surgeon do something entirely new in a partial knee replacement operation: remove only the diseased section of bone. The remaining cavity is then fitted with a metal insert that replaces the section of removed bone.

The surgeon starts by brushing a wand containing GPS coordinates over the arthritic section of the knee, thus feeding a 3-D image into the computer system. The computer registers the alignment of the entire limb, from ankle to hip, and how the whole leg moves together. The model shows every feature of a person’s leg – it’s as unique as a fingerprint. Now the surgeon can plan how much bone to remove for the implant and actually test the plan on the computer before beginning the surgery. The computer provides answers to key questions: If I remove this much bone, will the knee fully extend?  Will the knee feel natural — not too tight or too loose?

The technology ensures the accuracy needed for truly successful partial knee replacement.

Once perfected, the plan is coded into the handheld instrument used by the surgeon to perform the operation.  To help ensure safety, the device only permits movements in accordance with the plan – any deviation from the plan and the tools freeze, preventing the removal of any excess bone. The technology ensures the accuracy needed for truly successful partial knee replacement.

Robot-assisted partial knee replacement surgery offers a great new option to many age groups. It lets active people continue to engage in more strenuous sports than they could following a full knee replacement, which limits flexion. They can do anything that involves deep knee bending — rock climb, ski, cycle, hike, play tennis. The new approach also benefits those who may have other medical issues. This is a much smaller operation than a full knee replacement, offering a quicker, easier recovery, and a far lower rate of complications. It is the ideal procedure for those with some arthritic pain and limitation, but who do not want to sacrifice ligaments or remove healthy parts of the knee. By saving as much of a person’s own bone and ligaments as possible, NAVIO surgery lets them remain active for many years.

Editor’s Note: Victor Khabie. MD, FAAOS, FACS is Chief of the Department of Surgery, Co-Director of the Orthopedic and Spine Institute and Director of Sports Medicine, at Northern Westchester Hospital.

Getting a Handle on Hand Therapy

Posted on: August 25, 2015

Getting a Handle on Hand Therapy

By Michele Comen

When you lose the full function of your hand, wrist, elbow or shoulder, whether through injury, surgery, arthritis, or a progressive disorder like Dupuytren’s contracture, your doctor may recommend that you see a hand therapist. Here I explain what hand therapy is, whom it’s for and why it is so important.

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