Atlanta Man Gets His Life Back with Revolutionary Treatment

Dr. Matthew Kaufman Performs Phrenic Nerve Surgery

SHREWSBURY, N.J., Nov. 29, 2017 /PRNewswire-iReach/ -- From barely catching his breath to backcountry skiing at altitude. That's how far Stephen Posta has come with the help of phrenic nerve surgery, a specialty performed by Dr. Matthew Kaufman, a double board certified plastic surgeon and otolaryngologist (head and neck surgeon) at The Institute for Advanced Reconstruction in Shrewsbury, New Jersey.

Posta, a 49-year-old salon owner, had undergone three surgeries for thyroid cancer, the last of which caused damage to his phrenic nerve. The phrenic nerve controls function of the diaphragm muscle, the primary muscle involved in breathing. Contraction of the diaphragm muscle permits expansion of the chest cavity and inhalation of air into the lungs. Damage to this nerve not only causes breathing difficulties but increases the risk of repeated bouts of pneumonia and other health issues. The phrenic nerve can be damaged by surgery or procedures involving the neck or chest, injuries from accidents and even chronic compression in the neck due to "wear and tear".

The results of Posta's phrenic nerve damage, incurred during his third thyroid-related surgery, were instantaneous. "I went from jogging eight miles the day before the surgery to being unable to walk up steps without losing my breath even months afterward," he says. This was especially difficult for a man who claims, "I'm used to dropping off a 30-foot waterfall in a kayak, and I'm a big mountain biker."

Posta went from one doctor to another. "One told me I'd need a lung transplant; the other said there was no way to fix the nerve damage, and that I'd just have to live with it the rest of my life."

Dr. Kaufman, the only known surgeon worldwide to perform phrenic nerve surgery, hears stories like Posta's often, especially the common refrain of those with phrenic and other nerve damage, "You just have to live with it." He has been doing phrenic nerve surgery since 2007 and is approaching 450 surgeries, which he performs in bi-coastal locations for patients who come from around the U.S. and the world to Jersey Shore Medical Center and the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Dr. Kaufman found Stephen Posta's case challenging due to Posta's prior thyroid surgeries. "Extensive neck surgery or radiation or both often results in scarring, and the compromised blood supply affects the normal structures," he says. "However, we have a host of treatment options to improve outcomes based on the complexity of the problem. We have well developed treatment protocols that allow us to customize the plan for our patients in order to achieve the best possible outcome."

Stephen Posta, who found Dr. Kaufman on the Internet, reports that his phrenic nerve surgery, done on March 18, 2016, "went great. I wasn't even nervous going into it. Because of the way Dr. Kaufman explained things and his excellent bedside manner, I felt one hundred percent confident in him." Excellent care also helped. "Everything from the basics—the first email I sent--to every phone call and office visit, to all the other staff and the hospital and still up to this day--honestly, it was first-class treatment all the way."

The results have surpassed all expectations, particularly for a surgery for which improvement evolves over time. Posta was back at work two weeks after the surgery, and today he is doing CrossFit six days a week. In December, he will undergo what he feels is the supreme test of his recovery: backcountry skiing in Montana at 10,000 feet elevation.

Of the phrenic nerve injury and treatment Dr. Kaufman says, "We are constantly working to educate the medical community and in particular, the physicians that see patients with diaphragmatic paralysis. We have numerous peer reviewed medical publications and frequently lecture at medical conferences throughout the United States and abroad. There is still a large portion of the medical community that has no idea about phrenic nerve reconstruction, so we will keep working to get the word out."

Dr. Kaufman helped to do that as co-editor of a 2017 book, Rehabilitative Surgery: A Comprehensive Text for an Emerging Field which includes a chapter on phrenic nerve reconstruction.

Stephen Posta is a great "poster child" for this surgery. Concludes Dr. Kaufman, "Stephen Posta has superseded the normal pace of recovery. Here was an active man who had a severe disability, with a terrible quality of life. Giving him his life back has been tremendously gratifying."

The Institute for Advanced Reconstructionis part of The Plastic Surgery Center, the largest plastic surgery practice in New Jersey, which draws patients from across the country and around the globe. Their surgeons are some of the only ones nationwide, and in some cases worldwide, to perform certain life-altering surgeries, distinguishing them as international leaders in their field. 

Media Contact: Christina Halper Gorini, Victory Public Relations, 7324961118,

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SOURCE Dr. Matthew Kaufman



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