New York Spine Institute Brings World-class Spine Care to Long Island

By: Valerie Lauer
Thursday, June 16, 2016

Leading-edge diagnostic capabilities, surgical and nonsurgical technologies, expert staff, and an affiliation with one of the world’s finest orthopedic surgery centers distinguish New York Spine Institute as a tri-state leader in spine care.

The New York Spine Institute has experienced exponential growth, both in terms of reach and capability, since it was founded in 2000 by second-generation orthopedic spine surgeon and Medical Director of the Institute Alexandre de Moura, MD, FAAOS. The wide array of innovative solutions for back and neck conditions now available to Long Islanders is, in large part, thanks to Dr. de Moura’s vision.

“I witnessed my first spine surgery at age 15,” he says. “I knew then I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps and become an orthopedic surgeon. I’ve dedicated my life to becoming a leader in the field of orthopedic spine care. Founding and guiding the New York Spine Institute is a significant step toward accomplishing that vision.”

True Comprehensive Care

Dr. de Moura has practiced as an orthopedic spine specialist on Long Island since 1996. He opened the first New York Spine Institute location in Westbury. Today, the Institute encompasses 11 locations, with offices in New York and New Jersey.

“We deliver the full spectrum of orthopedic spine solutions to the communities we serve,” Dr. de Moura says. “My vision has always been to bring the highest level of care possible to areas where there is a dearth of convenient access to leading-edge care.”

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Alexandre B. de Moura, MD, FAAOS, Medical Director of the New York Spine Institute, and Mindi LeWinter, radiological technologist, discuss a pain management procedure with a patient.

Such conditions include sciatica, scoliosis, spinal osteoporosis, pediatric and adult deformities of the spine, spinal tumors, traumatic injuries, herniated discs, and spinal infections.

An Eminent Affiliation

Among the many ways Dr. de Moura’s background has helped shape the New York Spine Institute is its close affiliation with New York University (NYU) Langone Medical Center’s Hospital for Joint Diseases, where Dr. de Moura performed a fellowship in orthopedic and neurosurgical spine surgery.

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Michael Friar, DPT, works to restore a patient’s cervical passive range of motion at New York Spine Institute’s physical therapy facility.

“The NYU Langone Hospital for Joint Diseases is one of the finest facilities in the country for orthopedic care,” Dr. de Moura says. “That is why my associates and I at the New York Spine Institute retain privileges and perform surgery there. There is a rich tradition of orthopedic excellence at the hospital, as well as access to resources, technology and supportive personnel that meet our high standards of care. The affiliation is an ideal fit for the often complex interventions in which we specialize.”

Focus on Imaging

As a full-service spine center, the New York Spine Institute offers on-site access to advanced imaging services for added patient convenience. Clear images of the bone and soft tissue of the spine significantly enhance diagnostic accuracy and help Institute specialists craft treatment plans, track progress and plan complex surgical interventions with a high degree of precision.

A 1.5T high-field, ultra short bore magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system captures detailed images of patient anatomy using radio waves. The short bore design allows portions of the body to remain outside the MRI machine during scans, reducing feelings of claustrophobia. Other system features, such as a patient’s choice of music to be played during the scan, enhance patient comfort while maintaining a high quality of diagnostic imaging.

Alexandra Inglima, MRI technician, comforts a patient in New York Spine Institute’s MRI suite.

A Kodak Point of Care computed radiography X-ray system allows the Institute team to capture digital images that are easy to manipulate, examine and access. There is also a long-length imaging system for taking pictures of the entire spine to aid in diagnostics and treatment of a number of conditions, such as scoliosis.

The Cutting Edge

While surgery is not necessary for all patients with back and neck concerns, those who require such intervention benefit from the extensive experience of Dr. de Moura and his colleagues at the New York Spine Institute.

“The spine is a complex, delicate structure,” Dr. de Moura says. “Because we are a center of excellence, patients can feel comfortable that we have the familiarity and expertise necessary to successfully address the full spectrum of concerns that affect their spines.”

Such expertise extends to revision operations that require high levels of surgical proficiency. The New York Spine Institute serves as a referral center for tri-state area patients who have had one or more previous surgeries that have not resolved their conditions.

In such cases, alignment is often a key concern. Institute specialists perform pedicle subtraction osteotomy to surgically adjust vertebral alignment by removing portions of the bone and internally bracing the spine to maintain its newly crafted position and restore anatomical structure and function. The complex procedure is planned with the assistance of detailed imaging studies and performed by veteran orthopedic spine specialists for optimal outcomes.

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Kara Klobus, surgical coordinator, and Cinthya Aviles, front-desk receptionist, review the scheduling of a patient’s upcoming procedure.
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Nicholas Friar, DPT, provides instruction for therapeutic exercise.

New York Spine Institute specialists also helped pioneer the use of artificial disc replacement and were among the first in the region to employ the technique for managing disc herniation and degeneration. Often used in place of a traditional fusion surgery, artificial disc replacement allows for a more natural range of motion and helps extend the life of surrounding structures, reducing the need for future interventions.

Artificial disc replacement is not appropriate for all patients and is not commonly performed on all portions of the spine. For lower back issues, New York Spine Institute surgeons perform anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF), during which a degenerative disc is partially removed and replaced with an implant containing bone graft material that helps restore vertebral spacing, easing tension on the surrounding nerves. The anterior approach spares tissue and speeds patient recovery. Over time, the bone graft grows and fuses the vertebrae together, helping prevent future degenerative issues.

Scoliosis Specialists

Both surgical and nonsurgical scoliosis interventions are available at the New York Spine Institute.

“Scoliosis can affect children or develop later in life in adults,” Dr. de Moura says. “It is a complex condition that requires expert monitoring and care. New York Spine Institute is a premier scoliosis treatment center.”

For some patients, bracing may be necessary to prevent the condition from advancing.

“If surgical intervention is necessary, the procedure is very involved,” Dr. de Moura explains. “Our relationship with NYU Langone’s Hospital for Joint Diseases means we have access to world-class surgical suites for these procedures. My associates are comprehensively trained in this type of care and known around the world as experts. Because specialist care is key to positive outcomes, we have become a national destination for scoliosis care.”

“We maintain a broad spectrum of diagnostic and treatment capabilities under one roof with multiple locations in New York and New Jersey. Our team of experts are all leaders in their fields, and our inpatient care program at NYU Langone’s Hospital for Joint Diseases is unrivaled.”
— Alexandre de Moura, MD, FAAOS, Founder and Medical Director, New York Spine Institute

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Alexandre de Moura, MD, FAAOS, board-certified orthopedic surgeon, and Founder and Medical Director of New York Spine Institute

New York Spine Institute’s scoliosis specialists offer open and minimally invasive surgical interventions and focus on preparing patients for surgery and helping them recover after the procedure for optimal outcomes.

Conservative Options

The robust physical therapy program at New York Spine Institute focuses on the mechanics of joints, ligaments and muscles for improved strength, flexibility, motion and pain control.

Using a combination of exercise, stretching and behavioral modification, licensed physical therapist Michael Friar, DPT, assists individuals with spine concerns. Physical therapy may serve as a standalone conservative treatment or be used in conjunction with other therapies. It also plays a key role in preparing individuals for surgery and helping them recover after a procedure.

“Providing physical therapy at the Institute helps complete the continuum of care we provide,” Dr. de Moura says. “Physical therapy is part of a comprehensive conservative therapy program for many patients. If conservative therapy fails, patients who have surgery return to the same therapist they worked with prior to surgical intervention. That maintains continuity. The therapist knows each individual case and person well, and can build a customized post-surgery physical therapy plan using that information.”

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Front-desk receptionists Cinthya Aviles and Tina McCann greet patients.

The New York Spine Institute also provides physiatry care to assist with rehabilitative physical therapy programming and conservative therapies. The physiatrist focuses on fully understanding the neuromuscular causes of pain, paralysis or deformities of the spine. After conducting comprehensive physical assessments, he uses tools such as nerve conduction studies to gather information about neural response. The physiatrist then uses holistic models to craft treatment plans designed to address all aspects of a patient’s condition, ranging from pain to stress and trouble sleeping.

Pain Management from Every Angle

Pain associated with spinal conditions can be debilitating and chronic, and it often drastically affects a person’s quality of life. It is also a very personal factor of individual health — pain does not happen the same way for everyone, even two people with physiologically similar concerns.

To address the numerous pathways of pain and its variability, the New York Spine Institute employs a variety of professionals and offers different types of therapy so patients can find relief.

The team includes fellowship-trained pain management specialist Debora Mottahedeh, DO, and providers from the North American Partners in Anesthesia — which has an office in the New York Spine Institute’s building — who are fellowship-trained in sports medicine and spine care. They work closely with patients suffering from pain to diagnose and treat their discomfort with a number of therapies, including injections and noninvasive laser therapy.

The mental side effects of pain can also be devastating, limiting a person’s ability to enjoy life or to maintain his or her livelihood. To better understand and address the mental aspect of pain, the Institute depends on veteran pain management psychologist Benjamin Hirsch, PhD.

Hirsch is considered a pioneer in the field of pain, specifically in relation to helping patients who do not respond well to traditional medical therapies. At the Institute, he works hand in hand with patients, helping them learn techniques such as relaxation, diversion and desensitization to alleviate discomfort and improve their mental and physical well-being.

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New York Spine Institute’s Westbury, Long Island, location

Alternative therapies also have a role to play in pain management. Acupuncturist Sharon McDermott, LAC, offers therapy with sterile needles that has been shown to trigger a release of pain-relieving chemicals such as endorphins and stimulate healing and relaxation. Herbology, cupping and Tui Na — a massage modality that incorporates aspects of acupuncture — are also part of the therapeutic offerings at the New York Spine Institute.

A Complete Solution

The wide range of comprehensive care available at the New York Spine Institute is what makes it an attractive option for patients on Long Island and beyond. Healthcare providers in pursuit of innovative options for referring patients are united with specialists with access to advanced technology who are ready to address the full spectrum of spinal health concerns.

Partners in Spine Care

Experience, leadership and a commitment to patients are hallmarks of the care each of the three physician leaders of New York Spine Institute delivers.

Founder Alexandre de Moura, MD, FAAOS, has worked with thousands of patients from across the globe, providing innovative treatments and compassionate care to individuals with a variety of complex spinal issues. His medical philosophy centers on finding solutions uniquely suited to each individual case and approaching patients with respect, patience and understanding.

“It is incredible to work closely with people and see the interventions we offer change their lives completely,” Dr. de Moura says. “They may experience extreme pain and/or be completely prevented from working and enjoying life. Seeing them get their lives back is the most rewarding part of what I do.”

Dr. de Moura has undergone advanced training in bone and neurological spinal disorders. His medical degree is from the Chicago Medical School, and he completed an orthopedic surgery residency at Temple University Medical Center. He is board-certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery and is a member of the North American Spine Society, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, New York Medical Society and Nassau County Medical Society. He also teaches as a Clinical Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at the New York University (NYU) School of Medicine.

Joining Dr. de Moura in practice at the New York Spine Institute are Peter Passias, MD, who specializes in the cervical and lumbar spine, and Angel Macagno, MD, who specializes in cervical spine, lumbar spine, spinal deformities, and adult and pediatric scoliosis.

Dr. Passias joined the Institute in 2010. During his medical education, Dr. Passias completed a residency at Tufts University School of Medicine as well as fellowships in spinal tumors and spinal trauma at the Harvard Combined Spine Fellowship and additional postdoctoral work in a biomechanical engineering research of spinal disorders program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He is a member of the Scoliosis Research Society, Cervical Spine Research Society, International Spine Study Group and North American Spine Society, often serving as a member of key committees for these organizations.

Education remains close to Dr. Passias’ heart. He works closely with the orthopedic and neurosurgery residency programs at NYU Langone Medical Center to train surgeons on advanced spinal techniques.

Prior to joining the team at the New York Spine Institute, Dr. Macagno was a board-certified orthopedic surgeon in his home country of Argentina for 15 years. After coming to the United States, he completed a spine fellowship at Miami Children’s Hospital as well as a surgical internship and orthopedic surgery residency at State University of New York at Downstate, and another fellowship at NYU Langone’s Hospital for Joint Diseases.

Dr. Macagno is an experienced researcher and writer, as well as a member of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgery, North American Spine Society and International Society for the Advancement of Spine Surgery. His practice focuses on spinal reconstruction to assist children, adolescents and adults with spinal deformities or injuries. Timeliness and clear communication are important to him, as is giving back. Dr. Macagno frequently volunteers his time to help individuals in Nicaragua with Health Volunteers Overseas. He specializes in the treatment of scoliosis, kyphosis, tumors and trauma.

For more information about the New York Spine Institute, visit