Over his two decades in the medical field, John Sarzier, MD has seen just about everything. The most common thing the neurosurgical spine surgeon at Optim Medical Center in Brunswick encounters however — patients who wish they had come to him sooner.
Sazier comments that many are frightened, swayed by decades-old horror stories courtesy of friends or family.
“The biggest thing I wish people knew is that the great majority of people I see do not have surgery. That’s 80 to 90 percent of patients. I’m able to treat with other modalities,” he said.
“But if they do decide to have surgery, I would say, ‘please do not listen to stories from grandma or neighbors who had something done in the 60s.’ Healthcare has come a very long way since then. There are procedures that are not nearly as invasive. Also, everyone is different, there are no two patients that are the same.”
In order to resolve an issue a patient must take that important first step — calling an expert like Dr. Sarzier. He gladly sits down with patients to discuss a variety of issues, many of which concern pain or numbness in their extremities.
Some common conditions he treats include ruptured discs, pinched nerves, spinal stenosis, arthritis of the spine, spinal fractures, sciatica, scoliosis and spinal tumors.
Each of these ailments can begin as mild numbness, weakness or pain. Over time, the symptoms get worse, not better.
“Mostly what I’m seeing is neck and back pain or numbness. I see a lot of tingling in these areas, as well as, a lot of chronic pain and pain that radiates down the arms or legs. Also, a lot of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome with all of the computer work everyone is doing these days,” he stated.
Many times, the initial pain, numbness or tingling does not prompt the patient to seek care until it intensifies, which means the damage worsens. That can make the issue more difficult to effectively treat.
“The longer the issue goes on, the higher the likelihood that I won’t be able to fix it entirely. People have this idea that they shouldn’t go see a surgeon until they can’t walk anymore ... but that’s not true. Please don’t do that,” he expressed.
“If you have a leak, you don’t wait until the pipes burst to call a plumber. If you have weakness, numbness or, really, anything that is going on longer than 30 days, it is worth your while to see somebody about it. If it’s been going on for 90 days, there’s a greater likelihood that it may become permanent.”
Many of these issues, especially early on, can be treated with a variety of noninvasive methods — and with impressive results. Non-surgical treatments can range from physical therapy to dry needling to injections and beyond.
“I send folks out for chiropractic treatment, like traction. I really do a lot of non-traditional treatments that work well for some people. The newer research shows a lot of promise with regenerative medicine, like stem cells, of course, that is still in the early stages this point in time,” he added.
“Additionally, I do a lot of minimally invasive or interventional pain management. I do very well with that. I even have some newer spine treatments that are reversible, which means I can place an implant and remove it later. There are a multitude of treatment options that can be done without surgery. Surgery is never my first choice. I treat 90 percent of issues without a scalpel.”
Of course, Dr. Sarzier’s top priority is making sure that he provides patients with all the material to make the best decision for themselves.
“Just because you show up, doesn’t mean I’m going to try to make you have surgery. I really don’t. I simply tell you the options that are available, and the pluses and minuses of each,” he stated. “I don’t decide for you, but I outline the options and let you, the patient, decide.”
If that decision is of a surgical nature, Dr. Sarzier and the team at Optim are more than equipped to offer the highest quality care – Optim Medical Center-Tattnall has been a Healthgrades® Five-Star Spinal Fusion Surgery recipient for five years in a row (2016 – 2020).
“There was a published study conducted by insurance companies that said there is 95 to 99 percent success with neck surgeries. So, it shows that people are having good results and would make the same decision again,” he explained.
As part of his dedication to serving patients as close to home as possible, Dr. Sarzier, like many other Optim physicians, travels often. When in Brunswick, he practices at Optim’s clinic in the Summit Professional Plaza, located off Exit 38 and Spur 25 on Glynco Parkway.
Each day, he and his team have one goal — to make a real difference in the lives of his patients.
“I just want to make them feel the best they can, that’s what I’m here for,” Sarzier said.