Published on June 15th, 2018
Steven Falowski, MD Makes Restoring Others’ Quality of Life His Life’s Work
Upon first meeting his patients, internationally-recognized functional neurosurgeon, Steven Falowski, MD, assures them that he will use all of the resources available to help them regain their quality of life.
His patients are all in some form of chronic pain which not only diminishes their overall health, but makes every day activity either impossible or often excruciating. Dr. Falowski’s words are encouraging, but more than that, they represent the beginning of a diagnostic journey to get to the source of the pain and alleviate it.
“My role is largely focused on quality of life,” says Dr. Falowski. “My goal is to always restore people to functioning quality lifestyles through low risk, mostly outpatient, procedures and our team at St. Luke’s has been extremely successful in this regard.”
Growing up in New Jersey, Dr. Falowski always wanted to be a doctor. No one in his family was in medicine or even graduated from college, yet his fascination with the body, specifically the brain and neurological system, ultimately inspired him to pursue his specialty in neurosurgery.
While he was completing his education in New Jersey and his residency and training in Philadelphia, his passion for the brain-machine interface and also for artificial intelligence led him to neurosurgery. “Functional neurosurgery fit my personality because it’s hands-on and allows me to employ leading-edge concepts as part of medical treatments,” explains Dr. Falowski. “That’s what I loved about it and still love today.”
The specialty of functional neurosurgery revolves around restoring quality of life for patients by either placing electrodes in the brain, spinal cord or body or by performing non-destructive, minimally invasive procedures. Common disorders that neurosurgeons treat include Parkinson’s disease, tremors, chronic pain, migraines and epilepsy.
Dr. Falowski values practicing at a health system like St. Luke’s University Health Network because of the emphasis on personalized patient care using the latest in technology and clinical trials.
“In the chronic pain realm, technology has increased tremendously in the last few years and St. Luke’s is at the forefront,” explains Dr. Falowski. “We make use of all the latest technologies to employ minimally-invasive, same-day treatments and procedures with high success rates.”
Treatments like spinal cord stimulation (SCS), a well-established, effective therapeutic modality for pain, directs mild electrical stimulation to the nerves lining the spine, which modifies nerve activity and minimizes or eliminates pain in the abnormal regions.
Dr. Falowski and his team perform about 300 new implants per year and have been recognized as the nation’s leader for the highest volume, lowest complication and lowest infection rates in the country. These treatments have been shown to combat the opioid epidemic by either minimizing patient’s medication use or eliminating it entirely.
Deep brain stimulation, well established for Parkinson’s disease and tremors, as well as recently approved as a treatment for epilepsy, is another procedure that Dr. Falowski and his team utilize with fantastic success rates.
“Newer technology has now made the devices even more effective with current steering technology that allows surgeons to finely control signals in the brain,” says Dr. Falowski. “These advancements have made it a much more comfortable, safe and well-tolerated procedure.”
St. Luke’s and Dr. Falowski have received continued recognition in peer-reviewed medical journals like World Neurosurgery, Neuromodulation, and Pain Medicine. “We use the latest technology in neuromodulation, which is one of the fastest growing spaces in medicine,” continues Dr. Falowski. “We are part of numerous clinical trials which gives us access to therapies prior to any other center in the United States.”
Dr. Falowski has also pioneered new methods for neuromodulation device placement with a focus on comfort for the patient and minimizing adverse reactions. Historically, these devices were placed when a patient is awake due to safety and accuracy of placement concerns, but after 10 years of research and various studies, he has demonstrated that they can be placed when the patient is asleep with a tool called neuromonitoring.
His research led to a multicenter trial directly comparing his method to the historic method of awake procedures. Dr. Falowski’s method was shown to be far superior in terms of accuracy of placement and less procedure time and risk.
Since his research has changed the field considerably, Dr. Falowski has been recognized internationally and invited to speak at numerous high profile meetings, including the coveted opening session speech at the North American Neuromodulation Society in January, representing St. Luke’s University Health Network in front of 3,500 people.
Dr. Falowski’s goal of helping patients achieve a high quality of life motivates him to always take a patient-centered, multidisciplinary approach to care providing higher success rates and lower complications.
“Because our team and St. Luke’s believes in a collaborative, multi-disciplined approach to treating patients, we can treat every aspect of the patient’s care and needs,” says Dr. Falowski. “As a team, we align our treatment plans to ensure that the patient’s therapies are a collaborative effort and because of this approach, we have become and will continue to be leaders in the field of neuromodulation.”