Dilantha B. Ellegala, M.D., FAANS, is a minimally invasive spine surgeon based in Virginia’s Lynchburg metropolitan area who has been practicing medicine for just over two decades. Dr. Ellegala is a physician at Virginia Neurospine, in Forest, Virginia, where he specializes in neurosurgery, providing operative and non-operative management for patients suffering from spinal injuries, disc disease, and stenosis disorder. He is also an Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery at University of Virginia Health System, and the creator of SonoSpine®, an innovative ultrasound technology that is revolutionizing minimally invasive spinal surgery. Named as one of America’s Best Physicians in 2016, he is a proud member of the American Board of Neurological Surgery and a fellow of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.
Dr. Ellegala had dreamed of becoming a doctor since he was five years old, looking up to his uncle—a primary care physician—who did good, respectable work for his fellow human beings every day. Discussing how he chose his specialty of neurosurgery, he says:
I like the intensity of it and the impact I can make in people’s lives. I like the fact that every single minute you’re in that operating room, you have to be on. I saw neurosurgeons who were not kind doctors, dealing with families during seminal events that everyone remembers, like when their father has an aneurism rupture or is in that hospital battling life or death. It requires sensitivity. It can be a horrible experience all the way around, but a good technical neurosurgeon and a kind doctor will try and make the situation as good as possible. I thought I could make a positive impact in that situation.
Dr. Ellegala received his Bachelor of Science in 1991 from the University of Washington in Seattle, where he continued on to medical school, graduating with honors in 1996. After completing his internship at University of Washington Medical Center, he went on to a neurosurgical residency at the University of Virginia, followed by a year in New Zealand as the Senior Registrar at Auckland Hospital, gaining experience in cranial neurosurgery. In 2006, he concluded his fellowship in cerebrovascular and skull base tumor neurosurgery at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and remained on staff as a clinical instructor, establishing a reputable academic career and collaborative relationship with Harvard and MIT engineering laboratories.
Upon moving to Lynchburg in 2011, he became the Director of the Centra Neuroscience Institute and later started his private practice, Virginia Neurospine, in 2016. Dr. Ellegala goes to work every day, caring for patients as though they are family, providing low cost, high-quality brain and spine care in his office and through his affiliations with Lynchburg General Hospital, University of Virginia Medical Center, and Virginia Baptist Hospital.
Through the creation of SonoSpine®, he has opened the door for ultrasonic, minimally invasive spine surgery which allows for the decompression of nerves using microneurosurgical technologies, eliminating the need for spinal infusions. From spinal stenosis to herniated discs and bone spurs, his advanced approach to treatment has attracted patients from all over the world. Throughout his two decades of experience in the field, he has been witness to the progression of surgical techniques. He noted:
I think neurosurgery is, along with many other things in medicine, moving to outpatient surgery. We’ve seen it with spine surgery over the last twenty years, and I think the next way we’ll see it is going to be outpatient brain surgery.
Aside from his work as a pioneer in spinal surgery, Dr. Ellegala is also an avid contributor to prominent peer-reviewed medical journals such as the The New England Journal of Medicine. He is an experienced instructor, having taught and lectured across the county, and is the proud founder of Madaktari Africa, a nonprofit aimed at advancing the medical knowledge of doctors across the continent to remedy the lack of accessible healthcare. A book about Dr. Ellegala’s work in Africa was published in April 2017, entitled, "A Surgeon in the Village,” by Pulitzer-nominated journalist, Tony Bartelme.
Moving ahead, Dr. Ellegala looks forward to seeing the field of spinal surgery evolve all across the country. He intends to train other surgeons in the effective procedures he’s developed over the course of his career and has plans to open more offices in Virginia as well as out west, starting in Phoenix.