‘Much-Needed Expertise’: Urologist Brings New Treatment Options to Altoona

By: Patt Keith

ChuangDVOCUSEach week, more than five new adult patients suffering from kidney stones come to see the urologists at UPMC Altoona Blair Medical Associates. And now, thanks to a new urologist at the practice, more treatment options for them are available than ever before.

Debby Chuang, M.D., of UPMC Altoona Blair Medical Associates Urology, brings to the practice new minimally invasive treatment options for men, women and children with urinary tract conditions, such as kidney stones, kidney/bladder/prostate cancers, urination issues, and erectile dysfunction. Dr. Chuang sees patients across the age spectrum and is the first local urologist to treat children with congenital conditions of the kidney, bladder or ureter, as well as other conditions, such as chronic urinary tract infections. She is in practice with Theodore Belis, M.D., who has been a urologist for 33 years and with Blair Medical for nearly three years.

“We are very, very fortunate to have Dr. Chuang with us,” Dr. Belis said. “Urologists are in great demand, not only here but nationwide. It is difficult to recruit urologists, and she brings much-needed expertise in robotic and minimally invasive surgery techniques. For a patient in need of a kidney removal due to cancer, her being here means excellent care without having to travel to Pittsburgh.”The high numbers of patients with kidney stones may result from the area’s aging population and reflect the average resident’s preference for red meat, red and black tea drinks, and not drinking enough water, which are common trends seen nationwide, Dr. Chuang said. Obesity and family history of kidney stones may also be risk factors for likelihood of kidney stone formation.

“Kidney stones form when the urine contains more crystal-forming substances — such as calcium, oxalate, and uric acid — than the kidney can remove,” Dr. Chuang said. “At the same time, a patient’s urine may lack enough substances that can prevent crystals from sticking together, creating an ideal environment for stone formation.”

One way to tell if the body is well-hydrated: Check the color of your urine.

“Urine that is dark or amber in color may be very concentrated and show that a patient isn’t hydrated enough,” Dr. Chuang said. “In general, if you are drinking enough water, your urine should be almost colorless.”

Individualized Treatment

While some stones may pass on their own through the urinary tract system, others, especially large stones, may need to be broken into smaller pieces through shockwave lithotripsy, or dissolved with medication.  Some stones may otherwise need to be broken down with other minimally invasive and endoscopic techniques that use laser or ultrasound technologies.

“Often times,” Dr. Chuang said, “a patient who undergoes surgeries using minimally invasive techniques has smaller incisions, less blood loss, and shorter hospital stays. However, treatment is very individualized. Treatment decisions often involve careful discussions between the doctor and the patient to determine the best way to manage a patient’s condition so that the patient cannot only get better, but also return to his or her daily routine quickly and safely, with good quality of life.”

Dr. Chuang provides a spectrum of urologic services for adults and children, including:

  • Kidney stone laser/shockwave treatments
  • Endoscopic removal of bladder tumors
  • Endoscopic resection of enlarged prostates
  • Robotic/laparoscopic kidney and prostate cancer surgery
  • Surgical treatment for erectile dysfunction
  • Surgical treatment for incontinence

Dr. Chuang completed her residency in urology at Case Western Reserve University/University Hospitals of Cleveland, where she also received her medical degree.

She is a resident/fellow member of the American Urological Association (AUA), and previously served as a representative in the Ohio Urological Society.  She also has various publications, and  received the 2013 Urology Research Award from the Urology Institute at University Hospitals of Cleveland.

Her research and clinical special interests include:

  • Minimally invasive treatment of genitourinary cancers and stone disease
  • Urologic oncology (treatment for bladder, kidney, and urinary tract cancer)
  • Adult and pediatric genitourinary reconstruction