How “asymptomatic” disease screening is the best medicine you can take.
When we think of modern medical innovations, it’s easy to think of “Eureka moments” that not only conquers disease but also increases our quality of life. The microscope allowed us to see bacteria for the first time. Penicillin gave us a sure cure for infections. Vaccinations of all kinds allow us to inoculate whole populations from hundreds of diseases.
And our life expectancy has increased.
In both my practice in Beverly Hills, CA and at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, I am dedicated to helping my patients recover from spinal disorders that cause back and neck pain. I’ve created a few innovations – not on the same level as the microscope or penicillin, but my work in artificial disc replacement has helped many patients heal from extremely painful degenerative disc disease. Most of my patients do better than just heal – they enjoy full spinal movement; they restore themselves to an active and pain-free lifestyle without the need for drugs.
After working with patients for more than twenty years, I found that no matter how severe or minor the problem, no matter what kind of surgery was planned, there was a positive non-surgical approach to ensure that my patients experienced the best possible outcome. It’s how I started what I call the 4D Health Process. I realized that there were four attributes to the process – nutrition, fitness, chemical balance, and disease screening. On the latter part, it would be more accurate to call it “asymptomatic disease screening.”
Asymptomatic disease screening describes a procedure whereby we conduct a systematic examination of the body to find diseases before they have a chance to produce symptoms. Primarily, we are conducting an intensive examination for disease in otherwise healthy people.
Sometimes we will use “computerized tomography,” also referred to as “CAT” or “CT” scanning. CT scanning is a highly evolved low-dose, low-energy x-ray system that is capable of taking thousands of images very quickly and a computer that reconstructs the images into a 3-dimensional picture. CT is an excellent tool for identifying aneurysms, pre-cancerous tumors, cysts, stones in the gallbladder or kidneys, polyps in the colon, and calcium deposits in the arteries and heart.
I can also have my patients scanned by “magnetic resonance imaging,” or “MRI”. This tool uses powerful magnetic pulses to create images. It is a particularly useful tool because it generates very detailed pictures of organs, soft tissue, bone – anything that I need to help identify specific problems. For instance, I can recommend an MRI scan to examine the condition of the individual vertebra that I believe may be the source of pain or discomfort. MRI scans give me the ability to see the shape and position of bone before I operate.
Ultrasound has been in use for decades to monitor the progress of pregnancy. The technique is similar to “echo-location” used by bats, whales, and dolphins, as well as SONAR used by submarines. By bouncing high-frequency sound waves into the soft tissues, a physician can see minute differences between fluid (such as blood) and soft tissue (such as artery walls). The technique has been demonstrated to have clinical value in detecting pre-stroke narrowing in the carotid arteries of the neck and arterial deterioration in the torso that may lead to aneurysms.
I often request traditional screening methods like a full examination of biometrics (e.g., panel cholesterol test, blood pressure, blood sugar). For my high-risk patients (those with chronic high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, family history, age), I may also order a treadmill to measure the cardiovascular system.
Knowing is Power
Asymptomatic disease screening has been proven to be highly useful in detecting diseases like aneurysms, certain cancers, coronary heart disease, and stroke. It bestows knowledge about ourselves that we can use to plan our lives. If knowledge is power, then asymptomatic disease screening is a power-maker for wellness.
Moreover, I believe that a robust screening of this type is vital for any pre-surgical preparation: doctor and patient must have a full understanding of the body’s condition. Like the other elements in the 4D Health Process: disease screening contributes to our total knowledge of what is necessary for our ultimate goal – pain-free movement and faster recovery.
Pain anywhere in the spine not only limits our movement but our ability to live life to the fullest. Rather than reach for a quick fix, we want to produce better long-term outcomes. Disease screening is one of those steps – it takes a little more time than the direct method. But it is – in my opinion – absolutely indispensable.
When part of a complete program that includes nutrition, fitness, and body chemistry – disease screening paints a complete picture of where we have to go as we move toward our goal of becoming GREATER than “better.”