UH-trained Orthopaedic Spine Surgeon Christina Cheng, MD Joins the Medical Staff

Dr. Cheng operates and sees patients at both East Side and West Side locations

UH Clinical Update - February 2019

With the continuing demographic changes of an aging U.S. population, the demand for orthopaedic spine surgery is strong.

“With an increasing life expectancy, we are seeing many older patients with degenerative spine disease,” says orthopaedic spine surgeon Christina Cheng, MD, who recently joined University Hospitals. “Degenerative spine disease can occur in the neck and lower back and can result in narrowing of the spinal canal and pinched nerves.”

Christina Cheng, MD Christina Cheng, MD

“We are also seeing many older patients who sustain compression fractures of the spine from simple injuries because of osteoporosis,” she says. “In some patients they may not know they have osteoporosis until they have their first fragility fracture. I work with their primary care physician or endocrinologist to help manage their osteoporosis and avoid future fragility fractures. Compression fractures are stable fractures and usually don’t require surgery. It’s mainly a matter of managing pain and following with serial radiographs to make certain the fracture does not worsen.” 

Dr. Cheng sees patients at UH Westlake Health Center, UH University Suburban Health Center and the Bolwell Clinic at UH Cleveland Medical Center. She performs orthopaedic spine surgery at UH Cleveland Medical Center and UH St. John Medical Center on the West Side, operating on the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine and addressing degenerative spine disease ,spinal stenosis and spinal deformity. Dr. Cheng also handles spine trauma cases at UH main campus and treats patients with metastatic spine disease. 

“Patients with metastatic disease of the spine can sometimes present with neurologic deficits because the cancer is compressing their neural elements,” she says. “Our goal with surgery is to stabilize the spine and take the pressure off the spinal cord and nerves.”

Dr. Cheng joined UH in September 2018, following fellowship training in orthopaedic spine surgery at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. She earned her medical degree from the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and completed orthopaedic surgery residency training at UH Cleveland Medical Center. 

Before patients see a spine surgeon for non-emergency spinal problems, Dr. Cheng says, they’re evaluated and triaged according to an algorithm developed by the UH Spine Institute. 

“With most non-emergent spinal problems we start with a conservative pathway where patients will either work with our physical therapist, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation physicians or Pain Management physicians,” she says. “I usually recommend patients to try conservative management first before they consider surgical intervention. If you’re doing it for the appropriate indications, spine surgery can be very beneficial.”

In her interactions with patients, Dr. Cheng says she operates under the idea that more information is always better. 

“I always go through radiographic images with each patient,” she says. “It is more effective to see pictures of where the problem is than to explain it in words, especially with patients who are not familiar with the anatomy. I can show patients where their nerves are pinched on the MRI and what I can do to relieve the pressure. This gives patients a better understanding of what’s going on. I also like to spend time discussing the risks and benefits of surgery and our goals with surgery. I want them to be informed about what’s going on. I also always encourage patients to bring their family or friend with them to be a second set of ears to listen and ask questions.”

For more information about Dr. Cheng or to refer a patient, please call 216-286-8888 or visit UHHospitals.org/spine.

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