Frequently Asked Questions


What is Hudson Valley Brain and Spine Surgery?

Hudson Valley Brain and Spine Surgery is a team of neurosurgical professionals and support staff who provide brain and spine surgical care to more than half a million residents of the Hudson Valley.  We are attending physicians at every hospital in Rockland and Orange Counties, New York.  In addition, we are attending neurosurgeons at many prestigious medical centers from New York City to the Mid Hudson Valley.   Patients from across the country seek out our expertise and compassionate care.  We have 3 offices located in Suffern, Middletown and Cornwall, New York.


What is the history of the practice?

Hudson Valley Brain and Spine Surgery is proud to have a history of providing care to residents of the Hudson Valley, and beyond, for nearly 50 years.  Dr Sheldon Katz moved to Rockland County in 1961, and provided attentive neurosurgical care to the residents of the area for the next 30 years.   Dr Daniel Spitzer joined Dr. Katz in 1989, bringing advanced microsurgical techniques to the treatment of spinal and brain problems. 

Dr. Jeffrey Oppenheim joined Dr Spitzer in 1994; together they opened a second full-time office in Goshen NY, and joined the staff at Horton Hospital (Middletown NY) and Arden Hill Hospital (Goshen NY).  The new office, and additional hospital affiliations, further increased their ability to care for residents of the area.

As the practice continued to flourish, Dr. Jeffrey Degen joined the group and established the new name of the practice in 2005. Dr. Spitzer retired in 2014.  A third office was opened, located in Cornwall NY, and further additions to the staff included Jim Mills, PA-C, a certified Physician Assistant, and Katherine Townly, PA_C.


Why should I choose a neurosurgeon for spine surgery?

No one has more training than a neurosurgeon when it comes to performing spine surgery.  Our team is particularly experienced in diagnosing and treating spinal fractures, disc herniations, and degenerative disease.  We utilize the most sophisticated technologies and employ our own full time intra-operative neurophysiologist.  Unlike other doctors who claim that they are “spine specialists”, our doctors have a minimum of 5 years of spinal surgery training and special training in neurology, neuroradiology, neuropathology and microsurgery.  Orthopedists, anesthesiologists and physiatrists who specialize in the spine rarely have more than 12 months of training in spine surgery. 


Where do you perform surgery?

The physicians of Hudson Valley Brain and Spine Surgery hold academic appointments at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center and Westchester Medical Center, and are on staff at the following hospitals:  Nyack Hospital, Good Samaritan Hospital, Orange Regional Medical Center, St. Anthony Hospital, Bon Secour Hospital, Catskill Regional Medical Center, St. Lukes / Cornwall Hospitals and Helen Hayes Hospital. 


What makes surgery by your surgeons safer?

Although surgery always has risks, there are ways to make it as safe as possible.  Our team is dedicated to making surgery as safe as possible.  We do this in several ways. 

First, we are conservative in our approach.  Each of our surgeons believes that surgery should be a last resort, whenever possible.  Although our practice is focused on surgical care, we are happy to refer our patients to other physicians and therapists who can provide conservative alternatives to surgery before surgery.

Second, we are confident to encourage second opinions.  We want to make certain that our patients are comfortable with our recommendations.   Similarly, we are happy to provide second opinion for patients who have been recommended surgery elsewhere.

Third, if surgery is needed, you can be certain that only the BC/BE surgeon will be performing the operation.  In "teaching hospitals" and "academic centers" the students (medical students, interns, and residents) will usually be learning by operating on all the patients.  There is no "opt out" from this reality.  However, we personally perform all of our operations. 

Fourth, we don't practice "assembly line" surgery.  We perform surgery the way Rolls Royce makes cars: one at a time.  This means that our patients get the closest care and the finest personal attention to detail.

Finally, our results speak for themselves.  Please see some of the testimonials linked to this page.  And, please feel free to call any doctor or any nurse who lives or works in Rockland County or Orange County and ask them about us.  We are confident that you will hear the truth.  


What are some of the technological advances that you utilize?

Spine and brain surgeries are almost always performed using an operating microscope.  Unlike the microscope that you may have seen in high school biology, the operating microscope is a large and expensive binocular system that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.  The benefit of microsurgery is that it allows much more careful attention to detail, and therefore greater safety.  Each of our surgeons has spent a minimum of 5 years training in the field of microsurgery.  In fact, neurosurgeons generally receive more microsurgical training than doctors in any other branch of medicine.  We are able to perform surgeries with smaller incisions, faster, safer, with less bleeding and fewer risks.  Most patients will go home the day after surgery or even the day of surgery.

Brain surgeries are usually performed with frameless stereotactic guidance (FS).  This technology works in a manner similar to the GPS system found in many cars and cell phones.  FS allows us to literally see where we need to go when performing brain surgery.  The benefit is a smaller surgery and a faster recovery.  In fact, many patients are ready to go home the day after surgery.

Intra-operative neurophysiological monitoring makes our spine and brain surgery safer.  This technology allows us to literally monitor many of the nerves throughout the body during surgery.  Any change is immediately recognized and addressed.  Our patients receive the attention of our full-time neurophysiologist, Brian Mungeer, CNIM, and the oversight of one of our neurosurgeons.