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At East Bay Brain & Spine we strive to keep you informed about the latest developments in the neurosurgical world — as well as information about our practice.

Featured
December 2, 2019

Dr. Max B. Merkow lectures at the Cancer Support Community about laser treatment of brain tumors

Dr. Merkow spoke the East Bay cancer community about the role of laser interstitial thermal therapy (LITT) in the treatment of brain tumors. He discussed the common reasons to use...
FeaturedPractice News
November 12, 2019

VIDEO FEATURE: Dr. Max Merkow speaks about minimally invasive spine techniques

Dr. Merkow addresses the philosophy behind modern spine procedures that are commonly classified as "minimally invasive." The tenets of these surgeries include minimizing tissue injury, utilizing neuronavigation (computer/imaging guidance), and maintaining normal...

Dr. Max B. Merkow lectures at the Cancer Support Community about laser treatment of brain tumors

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Dr. Merkow spoke the East Bay cancer community about the role of laser interstitial thermal therapy (LITT) in the treatment of brain tumors. He discussed the common reasons to use LITT in lieu of more traditional surgical or non-surgical interventions. Dr. Merkow believes this cutting-edge tool is an important component in the neuro-oncology armamentarium to fight brain tumors. Dr. Merkow lectured with Drs. Gigi Chen and James Rembert who composed the remainder of the expert panel. Drs. Chen and Rembert discussed updates on medical oncology and radiation oncology, respectively.

VIDEO FEATURE: Dr. Max Merkow speaks about minimally invasive spine techniques

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Dr. Merkow addresses the philosophy behind modern spine procedures that are commonly classified as “minimally invasive.” The tenets of these surgeries include minimizing tissue injury, utilizing neuronavigation (computer/imaging guidance), and maintaining normal spine motion. Examples include tubular retractor systems, artificial disc replacement, and lateral approaches to the spine. These surgeries shorten traditional recovery times. Dr. Merkow believes, when used appropriately, minimally invasive spine surgery improves clinical outcomes by decreasing pain, increasing strength, and raising one’s overall quality of life. East Bay Brain & Spine surgeons couple the latest in surgical technology with sound clinical judgment to better the lives of their patients.

Ehsan Ejaz, PA-C, joins our practice!

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East Bay Brain & Spine Medical Group is proud to announce that Ehsan Ejaz, PA-C, has joined our practice. He is a board-certified physician assistant with a passion for neurophysiology and neurosurgery. Ehsan received his B.S. in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior at UC Davis where he conducted extensive research at the Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders (M.I.N.D.) Institute at UC Davis and the Institute for Pediatric Regenerative Medicine at Shriners Hospital. Ehsan began gaining experience as a surgical neurophysiologist at Yale New-Haven Hospital.  He has conducted over 2000 intraoperative neuromonitoring consultations on a wide variety of cases. Keen to further his passion for neurosurgery and patient care, Ehsan then completed his Masters in Physician Assistant Studies at Samuel Merritt University. Ehsan’s philosophy for patient care involves empowering patients as equal members of their health care team, as patients are their own best advocates. Ehsan practices evidence-based medicine. He stays abreast of the latest developments and research by reviewing medical and neurosurgical literature as well as attending conferences. When he is not at the bedside or in the operating room, Ehsan can be found traveling to new places, hiking California’s expansive state parks, or capturing the perfect Milky Way photograph.

Dr. Matthew Piazza, Neurosurgeon, joins our practice!

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East Bay Brain & Spine Medical Group is proud to announce that Dr. Matthew Piazza has joined our practice. Dr. Matthew Piazza is a neurosurgeon who specializes in the surgical treatment of neurologic conditions affecting the spine, brain, and peripheral nerves. He treats a breadth of spine conditions including cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine degenerative disease, adult degenerative spinal deformity, spine trauma, and spinal tumors. Dr. Piazza’s primary goal is to provide patients with the maximum benefit with the smallest intervention using the latest surgical techniques and evidenced-based management. He believes that the patient–surgeon relationship is a partnership, and he strives to work with his patients to achieve the best outcome from both surgical and non-surgical treatments.

After graduating from Princeton University, Dr. Piazza received his medical degree at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He completed his neurosurgical training at the University of Pennsylvania. While at the University of Pennsylvania, he served as an internal fellow in spine surgery during which time he received specialized training in the surgical management of complex spinal disorders including degenerative spinal disease, adult degenerative spinal deformity, spinal oncology, and spine trauma. His post-doctoral research focused on quality improvement in peri-operative neurosurgical care and the development of animal models for studying spinal disc regenerative therapies.

Dr. Piazza practices in Walnut Creek and has privileges at John Muir Medical Center’s Walnut Creek Campus.

Dr. Max B. Merkow lectures on Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery in Danville, CA

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Sponsored by the John Muir Health Neurosciences Institute Dr. Merkow spoke about, “What is Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery? Does it Work?” on June 6, 2019. The talk was geared towards primary care physicians, pain management physicians, neurologists, and kinesiologists in attendance. Dr. Merkow explained how tubular retractor systems help relieve nerve pressure while preserving important spinal ligaments. He also discussed the role of artificial disc replacement in the cervical spine and minimally invasive hardware placement using intraoperative navigation. The lecture addressed the benefits of oblique lateral lumbar interbody fusion and why Dr. Merkow prefers this approach versus lumbar fusion techniques.

Although more technically demanding, the less invasive spinal surgery approaches commonly lead to shorter recovery times and the preservation of normal spine motion/biomechanics.

Visualase Probe

Dr. Merkow brings laser treatment for brain tumors to the East Bay

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In partnership with John Muir Medical Center, Dr. Max Merkow performs treatment of brain tumors with the Visualase laser system. By using a “GPS” imaging map, he places a 1.65mm diameter catheter into the tumor. Dr. Merkow then monitors the ablation (controlled destruction) of the tumor in real-time via an MRI machine. This treatment is particularly well-suited for tumors deep in the brain or tumors that metastasize from other parts of the body. The incision is typically closed with a single stitch and patients spend one night in the hospital before going home.
The laser catheter technology is one more addition to the fight against brain cancer. Dr. Merkow is proud to be the first and only surgeon in the East Bay offering this treatment.

Dr. Merkow interviewed for JMH Newsletter: Minimally invasive spine surgery, deep brain stimulation, and laser thermal ablation

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Dr. Merkow was featured in the “Neurosciences 2018 Spotlight” of the John Muir Health newsletter. He discusses several areas of his practice including less invasive spine procedures, deep brain stimulation for Parkinson’s Disease and essential tremor, and laser thermal ablation for brain tumor treatment.

Read the newsletter excerpt.

The management of spinal trauma

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Dr. Merkow discusses The management of spinal trauma at the Annual Trauma Symposium at John Muir Health on April 19th 2018 (presentation to begin at 3pm).

Dr. Max Merkow outlines the important clinical aspects of treating spine trauma patients. He emphasizes early surgical stabilization using minimally invasive techniques coupled with mobilization (as opposed to bedrest) in patients with unstable fractures. Dr. Merkow is a proponent of surgical navigation techniques using stereotactic workstations (see above); these methods allow patients to leave the hospital and get back to their normal lives faster than traditional treatments.