Hospital has his back

Hospital has his back

First printed in the Albany Times Union

October 19, 2013

Dr. Jian Shen has a vision.

He has chosen Fulton and Montgomery counties to make it a reality.

“Even though it’s a small area, I feel I can really do something big,” Shen said.

Although the 42-year-old former molecular biologist has been a surgeon for less than three years, he is building a reputation for cutting-edge minimally invasive operations at Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville and St. Mary’s Hospital in Amsterdam. He has performed several surgical “firsts” in the region, including the first robotic-assisted spine surgery, at Nathan Littauer, this summer.

And that’s the beginning. Shen’s goal is to create a “minimally invasive spine surgery destination” here, he said. He envisions patients from around the nation traveling to the region for the highest level of surgical care.

Sound far-fetched? Maybe. Medical “destinations” are typically large, long-established institutions with national reputations, like Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic, said Alwyn Cassil of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Studying Health System Change.

But it’s also tough to discount Shen. In two and a half years, he has brought patients in from New York City, Florida, Texas and Tennessee. He is among fewer than 100 surgeons in the nation, he said, who do endoscopic surgery of the spine — correcting problems with tiny incisions and a camera that projects the body’s interior onto a screen.

After 1,300 minimally invasive spine surgeries, Shen said his patients have had no resulting serious complications, such as infections or spinal cord injuries.

“We did not make anybody worse,” Shen said. “We made lots of people better. We made lots of people pain-free.”

About 15 percent of people who come to Shen’s practice, Mohawk Valley Orthopedics, for back pain end up having surgery, Shen said. One of his best-known local patients is Alan Chartock, president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio.

After a year of incessant, debilitating back pain, Chartock traveled to the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, but left unconvinced about having a procedure there. He’d had Shen as a guest on WAMC’s call-in program, Vox Pop. Chartock says he liked the doctor because he spoke to him as an equal. Shen had also performed a successful surgery on Chartock’s friend. So Chartock decided to have his back surgery performed at Nathan Littauer.

Given a couple of surgical options, Chartock chose the less aggressive one, Shen said. It didn’t help him; soon afterward, Chartock was in pain again. So he returned for a second, more intensive operation.

“When I left, I had no pain, and I have had no pain since that time,” Chartock said. “I’m very grateful to Dr. Shen.”

But he recalled friends’ responses when he said he would have spine surgery in Gloversville.

“Each of them had said, ‘What, are you crazy?”’ Chartock said.

So why did Shen, who lives in Loudonville, choose to work in Fulton and Montgomery counties? His decision was fueled in part by interest in treating patients in an underserved community — and in part as a strategic career move.

“At a major medical center, I would be nobody,” Shen said. “I would say, ‘Get me a robot.’ It would take longer to approve. Here, I get it in a week.”

Nathan Littauer and St. Mary’s hospitals have each invested about $1.75 million in robotic equipment, microscopes and other technology to support Shen’s surgeries, the institutions’ CEOs said.

Nathan Littauer administrators believed the investment was necessary to attract a highly trained specialist to the area, where there was tremendous need for a back surgeon, said hospital President and CEO Laurence E. Kelly. Shen has had patients waiting to see him every week since he arrived.

“We took a big risk, and it’s worked out fine,” Kelly said.

Now the question is whether more spine surgeons can be lured to the region to work with the surgeon.

“I’m looking for partners right now,” Shen said, “because it’s getting so busy, I cannot handle it myself.” 518-454-5417 @hughesclaire


Dr. Jian Shen , 42

Born near Beijing

Lives in Loudonville

Married to Wencui Shen, father of 7-year-old Ivyann

Medical degree from Weill Cornell University Medical College

Spine surgery fellowship: University of California at San Francisco

Moved to the Capital Region in 2011



Dr. Jian Shen, 42

Born near Beijing

Lives in Loudonville

Married to Wencui Shen, father of 7-year-old Ivyann

Medical degree from Weill Cornell University Medical College

Spine surgery fellowship: University of California at San Francisco

Nathan Littauer Featured in International Publication

Nathan Littauer Hospital and the special relationship we have created with Dr. Jian Shen was recently featured in the prestigious Orthopedic Weekly Magazine. The entire article can be found here: 12 2013 BY Trust Wins Star For Rural Hospital

Nathan Littauer robotic acquisition makes The Wall Street Journal

As reported by the Wall Street Journal June 27, 2013

Nathan Littauer Hospital Acquires Mazor Robotics’ Renaissance System

  • CAESAREA, Israel–(BUSINESS WIRE)–June 27, 2013–

Mazor Robotics Ltd. (TASE: MZOR; NASDAQCM: MZOR), a developer of innovative surgical robots and complementary products, today announced that Nathan Littauer Hospital, located in Gloversville, NY, has purchased its first Renaissance system. Nathan Littauer provides the finest in state-of-the-art technology and a caring, dedicated staff of health care professionals to the residents of Fulton County (NY) and the surrounding communities. Nathan Littauer, as an independent community hospital has a history of being an early adopter of new, therapeutic technologies.

“Littauer’s experience in minimally invasive surgery under Dr. Jian Shen just made history by acquiring this new technology for our grateful community.” stated Laurence E. Kelly Nathan Littauer Hospital’s President and CEO. “Dr. Shen has performed many ground-breaking surgeries at Nathan Littauer. This system is a tool in our minimally-invasive arsenal created for patients who suffer from debilitating spine pain. However, it is our team, with Dr. Shen at the helm that makes Littauer unique.”

“This is another key endorsement of our Renaissance system and further reflects the continued momentum we are experiencing in the northeastern U.S. market,” commented Ori Hadomi, Chief Executive Officer. “Within just the past few days we have installed our first two systems in New York, so we will be entering the second half of 2013 with momentum and a wider installed footprint in the northeastern U.S. This is an encouraging development, and it clearly demonstrates, both from a clinical and an economic proposition, that surgeons and hospital administrators are seeing the advantages of using our Renaissance systems.”

Dr. Jian Shen, who will be performing the surgeries, agreed stating, “I am pleased to bring this minimally invasive surgical approach to Nathan Littauer Hospital and the Upstate New York region. “Ultimately it is the patient who will benefit. Time and time again, that is where my focus lies — to create outstanding outcomes for my patients.”

Renaissance, Mazor Robotics’ next generation surgical guidance system for spine procedures, is transforming spine surgery from freehand operations to highly-accurate, state-of-the-art guided procedures that raise the standard of care with better clinical results. Renaissance system has been used to perform thousands of procedures worldwide (with over 35,000 implants placed in those procedures) in a wide variety of spinal procedures, many of which would not have been attempted without this technology.

About Mazor

Mazor Robotics (TASE: MZOR; NASDAQCM: MZOR) is dedicated to the development and marketing of innovative surgical robots and complementary products that provide a safer surgical environment for patients, surgeons, and operating room staff. Mazor Robotics’ flagship product, Renaissance(TM), is a state-of-the-art surgical robotic system that enables surgeons to conduct spine surgeries in an accurate and secure manner. Mazor Robotics systems have been successfully used in the placement of over 35,000 implants in the United States and Europe. Numerous peer-reviewed publications and presentations at leading scientific conferences have validated the accuracy, usability, and clinical advantages of Mazor Robotics technology. For more information, please visit

About Nathan Littauer

Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home is a full-service, 74 bed acute care hospital with an 84 bed skilled nursing home. For 118 years, Nathan Littauer has provided safe, high-quality health and wellness services with a focus on securing appropriate new technologies for people residing in Upstate New York. Over the years, the hospital has expanded its services in order to offer health care that is comprehensive, accessible, and relevant to the needs of the communities they serve.


Robotic Spine Surgery: The Future Is Here

As reported by WAMC Northeast Public Radio, Monday July 15, 2013


Credit Nathan Littauer Hospital
Some of the Littauer Surgical Team, pictured with Dr. Shen and the new technology.


A small Fulton County Hospital is on its way to becoming a major destination for patients in need of back surgery.

Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville has purchased and received its first Renaissance Robotic System, a groundbreaking technology offering new hope for patients suffering from debilitating spine pain.

Renaissance is the only FDA approved surgical guidance system for spine surgeries, which will be performed by Dr. Jian Shen, who is responsible for bringing the technology to Gloversville.

One of Dr. Shen’s patients, WAMC President and CEO Alan Chartock,went under the knife on a Monday and back to work early Tuesday morning. Chartock says Dr. Shen is looking to find and train an associate to assist him in performing spine surgery.  

Read more…

New Balloon Kyphoplasty Procedure Dr. Shen Performs at Nathan Littauer Provides Significant Improvement in Quality of Life to Patients Suffering from Spinal Pain

Dr. Shen is pictured as he performs one of the area's first Kyphoplastys

Dr. Shen is pictured as he performs one of the area’s first Kyphoplastys

Dr. Shen from Nathan Littauer Hospital announced today that he is offering Balloon Kyphoplasty, a minimally invasive treatment option for patients suffering from spinal fractures due to osteoporosis. Balloon Kyphoplasty is designed to treat the spinal pain and deformity associated with vertebrae fractures that occur from osteoporosis or cancer. The new technique significantly reduces back pain and improves a patient’s ability to return to daily activities. His first two Kyphoplasty surgeries at Nathan Littauer were deemed a success. “Both my patients are reporting a substantial improvement in their pain” said Dr. Shen.

“The surgery is new to the Fulton-Montgomery county areas and only a handful of surgeons in the Capital Region currently perform kyphoplasty.” said Hospital spokesperson Cheryl McGrattan. One factor contributing to spinal pain is Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a disease that causes the bones of the spine to weaken and often collapse, resulting in spinal fractures. Traditional treatment for spinal fractures includes bed rest, medication and back bracing. While these therapies may help to decrease a patient’s pain over time, they do not treat the deformity related to the osteoporotic fractures.

Balloon Kyphoplasty is designed to repair vertebral compression fractures and restore the vertebrae to the correct position, reducing back pain, reducing the number of days in bed, significantly improving mobility and increasing overall quality of life. The procedure generally takes less than one hour per fracture and has been performed under both local and general anesthesia. In most cases, Medicare provides coverage for Balloon Kyphoplasty. Other insurance companies may also provide coverage.

This picture was taken minutes before he performed the new surgery.

Dr. Shen preps for the surgery

Dr. Shen says, “I am pleased to bring this surgery to our region.” He added, “Of all the surgeries I perform, this technique is especially rewarding because it can reduce pain significantly and in a short period of time. The surgeon concluded, “I enjoying seeing the patient return to a better quality of life after this procedure.”

Osteoporosis-Related Spinal Fractures: More Frequent Than Hip Fractures

In the U.S., according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, each year 700,000 patients suffer from spinal fractures due to osteoporosis. Unfortunately, over 400,000 of these fractures go undiagnosed and untreated due in part to lack of awareness about osteoporosis and available treatment options.

The consequences of untreated fractures can be devastating. Once a patient suffers one vertebral compression fracture, the risk of suffering a second fracture increases five-fold. Left unattended, many fractures can result in an exaggerated rounded curvature of the spine, called kyphosis or dowager’s hump. This condition is painful and debilitating — making walking, eating, sleeping, and even breathing painful and difficult. Long-term, this condition could be fatal. Diagnosing such fractures is the first step toward providing patients who have been impacted by this devastating disease state with hope for treatment.

The statistics are staggering — one in two women and one in four men age 50 and older in the United States will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime, with bone loss potentially beginning in women as early as age 25. This figure is projected to double in the next 50 years due to the increase in aging population and lifestyle factors, according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation. The current incidence rate has caused the World Health Organization to cite osteoporosis as second only to cardiovascular disease as a leading international healthcare problem. For more information about osteoporosis and spinal fractures, please visit the National Osteoporosis Foundation web site at

Although the complication rate with Balloon Kyphoplasty has been demonstrated to be low, as with most surgical procedures, there are risks associated with Balloon Kyphoplasty, including serious complications. Patients should consult with their doctor for a full discussion of the risks.

The surgical team at Littauer gets ready for the procedure

The surgical team at Littauer gets ready for the procedure

For consultation:

For a consultation concerning treatment options for a spinal fracture, please contact Dr. Shen at the New Johnstown Surgery Center at 773-4242.

Public Forum Offered:

For people who are interested in learning more about Dr. Shen and his surgical solutions, Nathan Littauer is offering a FREE seminar: “Reducing Spine Pain” October 18, 2011 at 6:30pm at The Johnstown Holiday Inn. “It is an evening with Dr. Shen and a rare opportunity to hear first-hand the myriad of solutions this phenomenal surgeon brings to our region” said Hospital Spokesperson Cheryl McGrattan. Patients will learn about break-through surgeries and be given the opportunity to ask questions. A dessert buffet will be provided.