Seeing Clearly

February 7, 2019

Surgery helps a Matawan man overcome a neurological condition that affected his vision.

By Kelly Raymond

After enjoying a family vacation at Disney World, Matawan resident Richard Alberti, 74, started to experience double vision and noticed that his left eye was beginning to droop. Richard’s ophthalmologist, Ronald Klug, M.D., FAAO, with Riverview Medical Center, suspected he was suffering from myasthenia gravis, a neurological condition causing a variety of symptoms, including weakness and rapid fatigue of muscles under voluntary control, double vision and droopy eyelids.

FINDING ANSWERS

Dr. Klug referred Richard to Philip Ilaria, M.D., a neurologist also affiliated with Riverview. “Myasthenia gravis is a condition that affects the nerves and muscles,” Dr. Ilaria explains. “Patients with myasthenia develop muscle weakness since their nerves and muscles do not connect the way they should.” Dr. Ilaria prescribed medication to improve muscle activity and referred Richard to Ziad Hanhan, M.D., FACS, director of Minimally Invasive Thoracic Surgery at Riverview, to have his thymus removed. Removing the thymus gland can decrease the need for immunosuppressive medication.

Before his surgery, Richard received a series of three intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) infusion treatments at Riverview’s Larkin- Stillwell-Hansen Infusion Center, which overlooks the Navesink River. The infusions helped to reduce the antibodies that cause muscle weakness in myasthenia gravis, which can increase stress from surgery. “In the infusion suite, I had a separate room and a beautiful, peaceful view. My wife was able to be with me during my treatment, and they even brought me lunch,” Richard says.

SMOOTH RECOVERY

Following the infusion sessions with Dr. Ilaria, Richard underwent robotic surgery with Dr. Hanhan in Riverview’s Center for Robotic Surgery.

“Using a robotic approach, I removed Mr. Alberti’s thymus gland with a few small incisions in his right chest,” Dr. Hanhan says. “Prior to the availability of this technology, we would have had to cut the breastbone in half.” “Robotic surgery was miraculous; I only had two incisions, and I healed very quickly,” Richard says. “Everyone at Riverview was wonderful, and I was up and walking around again in no time.”

“On his initial visit, Mr. Alberti had trouble shaking my hand because his grip strength was severely compromised,” recalls Dr. Hanhan. “It was so rewarding to immediately sense a significant increase in grip strength at the start of his first postoperative visit.”

Today, Richard has recovered, is back to enjoying his retirement and has resumed his part-time position at a golf course. Richard enjoys spending time with his four grandsons (who keep him busy!), his wife and two children.