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South Hills Orthopaedic Surgery Welcomes Spine Surgeon Carmen Petraglia, M.D.
By Nancy Kennedy


Carmen Petraglia, M.D.Carmen Petraglia, M.D., an orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in spine surgery, has joined South Hills Orthopaedic Surgery Associates and the Medical Services staff of St. Clair Hospital. A native of Pittsburgh, Dr. Petraglia possesses exceptional credentials, clinical versatility and a passion for using his skills and expertise to improve the quality of life of people who are suffering with spine problems.

To Dr. Petraglia, the human spine is a masterpiece of design and biomechanics. "The spine is the foundation of the human body. It anchors the entire body, and when it is healthy, it provides the strength, flexibility and stability to power walking and all of our movements," he explains. "The spine is complex, intricate and dynamic; being able as a surgeon to repair and correct spine disorders is enormously satisfying. I love my work and making a difference in the lives of my patients."

Dr. Petraglia is a graduate of Duquesne University who already had a master's degree in biology and was a researcher at Duquesne when he decided to attend medical school. He earned his medical degree at Temple University and completed his residency in orthopaedic surgery at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore. "During my residency, I was mentored by Dr. Paul Sponseller, a world leader in scoliosis and spinal deformity surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. This was followed by a fellowship in spine surgery at the renowned Shock Trauma Hospital of the University of Maryland Medical System. The Shock Trauma Hospital was the first integrated trauma hospital and is the world leader in trauma care, research and training," Dr. Petraglia says. "I am fortunate to have trained there, where I learned the most advanced and innovative procedures in the care of spine injuries. I am well trained in the intricacies of spine surgery and I'm looking forward to helping the people of the Pittsburgh region who are experiencing spine problems."

"Nobody is trained in spinal surgery like Carmen," says his colleague, orthopaedic surgeon Derrick Fluhme, M.D. "He will be a tremendous asset to our practice and to St. Clair Hospital."

Dr. Petraglia specializes in treating cervical and lumbar stenosis, scoliosis, and spinal cancer. He performs minimally invasive spinal surgery, which uses tiny incisions and highly specialized instruments to relieve spinal cord compression. "I perform surgery to treat metastatic disease to the spine, which means cancer that has spread to the spine. That has personal meaning for me, as my mother died of ovarian cancer. Cancer cells that tend to spread to the spine seem to attach better to the supporting network of the bone."

One of the procedure for treating spinal malignancy is called vertebrectomy and is the same procedure used to treat spinal infection which is known as vertebral osteomyelitis. Spinal infections can become a life-threatening condition and are very difficult to treat medically. "The spinal disks are avascular so they are a great place for bacteria to grow and avoid white blood cells, which are vital for fighting infection," Dr. Petraglia explains. "Treating diskitis with surgery is a complex procedure that can be lifesaving."

Spinal surgery, says Dr. Petraglia, sometimes has a bad reputation that is outdated. "Historically, patients were operated on when they really didn't need to be. Surgeons used to treat back pain with surgery without knowing the etiology and the exact source of the pain. Technological advances have made it possible to narrow the indications for surgery and raise the success rates of spinal surgery. The critical question is who to operate on and who not to operate on. Nine times out of ten, the patient does not need surgery. If there is radiculopathy, yes, but we do not operate just for pain. Instead, we try all the non-surgical options first."

There are some promising advancements on the horizon in spine surgery, including the development of artificial disk replacements, Dr. Petraglia says. "They are excellent and can decompress the spine and preserve motion; they'll be a substitute for fusions. Another major advance is the new biological allografts."

Dr. Petraglia is happy to be back in his hometown of Pittsburgh. "I grew up in Bloomfield, went to high school at Central Catholic and played football at Duquesne. I belong in Pittsburgh! Now I live in Bethel Park, with my wife, Holly Romano, and our three children: Carmen, 8; Luca, 5; and Angelina, 3." He is equally pleased to be with SHOSA. "It's a dream. I'm working with my good friend, Derrick Fluhme, and looking forward to improving the lives of people with back problems."

To make an appointment with Dr. Petraglia, contact South Hills Orthopaedic Surgery Associates at (412) 283-0270. The office is located at 2000 Oxford Drive, Suite 211, near South Hills Village.

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