Jeremy Weitz and family

Last winter, Jeremy Weitz, a young athletic father who loves to play with his three young kids, suddenly suffered from back and leg pain so severe that he could barely get out of bed.

"I couldn't walk. I couldn't get upright. I couldn't deal with day-to-day activities," said Weitz, age 34.

He went to see his long-time spine specialist, Justin Tortolani, MD, who had recently returned to practice at University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center. Dr. Tortolani had previously treated Weitz for other spine issues. The timing was perfect.

Magical Family Trip At Risk

An MRI revealed that Weitz had major disc degeneration. One of Weitz's concerns was whether he and his family would be able to enjoy the vacation at Magic Kingdom Park at Disney World they were looking forward to in August, which they had rescheduled from the previous year due to the pandemic.

You could say that the results of the spinal fusion that Dr. Tortolani performed were almost magical.

"Immediately afterward, I could feel the relief," Weitz recalled. "Eight weeks later, I was walking two to three miles and playing with my kids. We are a Disney family through and through. Although I cannot go on all the rides with them, I can be there with them now and enjoy the experience."

Weitz, who lives in Northern Baltimore County, feels fortunate to have expert treatment near at hand.

"In my opinion, to have a world renowned doctor like Dr. Tortolani so close to me at UM St. Joseph is amazing," he said. "I don't have to travel. The spine experts are close to my home."

Don't Wait if You Have These Symptoms

"Nerve symptoms such as arm or leg pain, nerve tingling or weakness in the limbs can indicate a serious condition that possibly could lead to partial paralysis," explained Dr. Tortolani, medical director of the Spine Institute. "Weakness, such as losing grip strength, losing dexterity, dropping your keys or coffee, trouble with handwriting or not being able to put on jewelry, can be a symptom of a serious spine issue causing compression of a nerve. Don't wait. Consult a physician right away."

Dr. Tortolani, a clinical professor of Orthopedics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, is a board-certified spine specialist with more than two decades of experience. Widely recognized for his national research contributions to the advancement of spinal surgery, he has been published extensively in numerous professional publications and journals. Baltimore magazine has named him a Top Doc in orthopedic spine surgery every year since 2013.

Dr. Tortolani is not new to UM St. Joseph: he previously served as an attending orthopedic surgeon and co-director of the Maryland Spinal Reconstructive Fellowship Program.

The Spine Institute, under his leadership, offers a holistic, comfortable space with comprehensive services and spine and pain specialists under one roof. The broad range of services includes:

Interventional pain management and fluoroscopy suite

  • Neurosurgery
  • Orthopedic spine surgery
  • Osteoporosis and Bone Health Center
  • Physical therapy and follow-up care
  • Radiology services

The Institute is bright and airy with a comfortable, light-filled waiting room, central front desk, beautiful window views and an efficient flow of services. The x-ray suite has a private exit to patient exam rooms, so that patients do not have to return to the waiting room.

"Patient privacy and comfort are at the forefront of the Institute's design," Dr. Tortolani explained. "The Spine Institute is an investment by University of Maryland St. Joseph which showcases that they are a center of excellence."

Wide Breadth of Spine Services Handled with Care

"We offer the full gamut of spine care, from treating spinal and cervical stenosis to sports injuries, spinal deformities such as scoliosis and kyphosis (roundback) and the sprains and strains of the weekend warriors," Dr. Tortolani said. "We assume all care, from the initial evaluation through interventions such as guided physical therapy, pain management and surgeries that vary from minimally invasive approaches to the spine to more complex surgeries for spinal deformities."

The Institute's staff includes four orthopedic surgeons, three pain specialist physicians and advanced practice providers.

"The team meets regularly to discuss complex cases and advancements in treatments and to develop innovative best practices," Dr. Tortolani said. "We want to be your first choice for caring, expert spine and neck treatment."