July 25, 2022
Meet Brian Neuman, MD, Co-Chief of Spine
Dr. Neuman provides personalized spine care for pediatric and adult patients, specializing in the surgical treatment of complex spinal deformity conditions and complex revision surgery for the treatment of scoliosis, kyphosis, flatback syndrome, nonunion, and malalignment. He also has an interest in treating degenerative conditions (stenosis, spondylolisthesis, disc herniation, etc.) of the spine.
Where are you from?
I am from a small town outside of Pittsburgh called Eighty Four Pennsylvania. I always get asked why a town is named after a number. There are many theories out there, but it is unknown. One plausible theory is it was the 84th marker on the rail located about 30 minutes south of Pittsburgh. And, as you can imagine, I am a huge Pittsburgh sports fan.
What made you choose orthopedics and spine as a specialty?
Growing up, I played many sports, which introduced me to our local orthopedic surgeon. Having an interest, I shadowed him and enjoyed how he could improve a person’s quality of life and help them return to the activities they enjoy. During my training, I was exposed to many orthopedic subspecialties.
I gravitated to the spine because I enjoyed the complex decision-making needed to determine the right procedure for a patient and the intricate technical aspect of the procedures. This is why I greatly enjoy adult and pediatric spinal deformity and complex spinal reconstruction surgery. I also really appreciate the research aspect of my career. There is still unknown when it comes to the optimal way to treat spine patients and it gives me pleasure to contribute the evolving body of knowledge to improve care.
What brought you to Washington University Orthopedics?
I was fortunate to complete my Spine Fellowship at Washington University, which showed me the strong foundation that exists here. That experience introduced me to many faculty who are dedicated to improving patients’ lives and have a strong desire to advance the field of orthopedics.
When I finished my fellowship, I looked for a program that had a similar mission and philosophy to Washington University, which I found at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. After nine years, I have been provided the honor of returning to my training grounds at Washington University to lead the spine division. The clinical and academic opportunities are second to none here, and my colleagues within the department are outstanding clinicians, researchers, and people.
What aspect of your practice do you find most interesting or rewarding?
I appreciate the thought process and technical aspects of complex spine deformity surgery. Nothing is more rewarding than caring for a patient who has difficulty standing erect, or walking, then after undergoing an operation, they can return to the function activities they enjoy.
Was there a past patient who made a lasting impact on you?
I find that many patients leave an impactful impression on you in this field.
One in particular was a patient who previously had multiple surgeries and wasn’t able to stand erect due to her deformity. In addition to her postural change, she developed a foot drop and relied on oral narcotics and a pain pump. Her ultimate goal of surgery was to be able to play with her grandchildren. She underwent an operation to improve her alignment and stabilize her spine. Through her postoperative hard work with physical therapy and her resilience to come off of oral narcotics, her foot drop improved, and she was able to come off oral pain medication. She is now functioning very well and has exceeded her own expectations.
At her one-year follow-up appointment, she brought her grandchild to the visit. Her granddaughter shared how grateful she had her grandmother back and playing with her. This response is why I do what I do. It is the greatest reward.
Anything new on the horizon for spine care?
The ever-evolving nature of the spine field and how we can better improve patient outcomes is what keeps me captivated.
Currently, research is being performed on how to better incorporate robotics and minimally invasive surgery into spinal operations. We are working on identifying patent factors and biological markers, which could help us determine which patients would benefit from surgery and be at low risk of complications. We also continue to work on methods to identify patient-specific ideal spinal alignment, methods to obtain this alignment with reducing complications.
What is the best advice you ever received and who was it from?
The best advice I received was from my dad, “Head up and always move forward.” Not only is this good advice for wrestling, but it is also good advice for life.
What is your favorite thing to do outside of work?
I enjoy spending time with my family. We love to travel, hike, try new cuisines (not just order them, but try and make them), and explore. My 18-month daughter keeps us on our toes, and it has been a joy to watch her grow and discover the world. I also enjoy playing a daily round of fetch with my mini poodle/Welsh terrier dog.
If you weren't a physician, what would you like to be doing?
I wrestled in college at Bucknell University, and if I wasn’t a physician, I would enjoy being a collegial wrestling coach. Not only do I enjoy the sport, but I also enjoy mentoring others.
Anything else you would like to share?
We are excited to announce a new addition to our family arriving mid-August.
Learn why patients choose Washington University Orthopedics for their spine needs.