A pain clinic that was launched at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow in September 2020 has grown over the last year and a quarter. The clinic, which started with eight patients a week, now has 30 to 35, NUMC doctors said.
NUMC’s Interventional Pain Clinic, launched by Dr. Paul Weinberg, of the Department of Anesthesiology, and Dr. Paul Pipia, of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, offers multidisciplinary treatments to help reduce and eliminate pain without medication.
“We’ve had a lot of success with the clinic,” Pipia said. “We don’t have many patients on advanced pain medication now. Our goal is to get them off of pain medication and get them back to a more productive life.”
“There was a growing need for alternative pain treatment options,” he said, “and we were missing that part.”
The clinic combines the knowledge of physicians from the departments of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Anesthesiology, Neurosurgery and Musculoskeletal Radiology.
“A lot of patients who we deal with don’t have access to this care elsewhere,” Weinberg said. “. . . The benefit that we have is that any patient in the hospital is easily referred to us.”
Once patients have been evaluated, their treatments are decided after doctors consider the severity and tenacity of the pain. Instead of ingested medicines, treatments can include topical medications, minimally invasive procedures like joint injections and implantable devices, spinal and epidural injections, cryotherapy (cold therapy), stem-cell therapy, medication management, and physical therapy and rehabilitation.
“Our approach is not to be using narcotics but to use other medicines such as numbing medications and steroid medications to solve the problem rather than using narcotics,” Pipia said.
Both the clinic’s director and attending physician, Dr. Vinay Kudur and Dr. Matthew Spiegal, respectively, are trained anesthesiologists who can provide different levels of anesthesia and sedation to ease pain or fear before and during procedures.
Kudur’s role as clinical director is to see patients, schedule consultations and ensure that all runs smoothly. “We make sure that every single service in the hospital is aware that we’re there,” he said. “We make sure that our services are accessible to everybody.”
The clinic, which is on NUMC’s ground floor, is across from the physical therapy department, a short distance away, for patients who might need PT. The clinic also helps schedule follow-up treatments and offers easy access to X-rays, MRIs and CTs. And clinic doctors can refer patients to the Department of Neurosurgery for those with chronic pain that do not respond to treatment.
Opening the clinic amid the coronavirus pandemic has been challenging, Kudur said. “It definitely affected how many patients we had right off the bat,” he said, “but by word of mouth our patient numbers have grown.”
The clinic accepts all patients, regardless of insurance status, and offers a sliding fee scale depending on patients’ ability to pay. “We want to make sure that people know that this is a service that is available to them,” Kudur said. “Most people associate medical specialties with increases in costs, but we make this available for people without insurance or with not a lot of insurance.”