Patient Experiences

High praise from a grateful sufferer of an acute pilonidal abscess that was drained with great relief:

This dude is a pilonidal expert. For those that don’t know what this is, it’s this really annoying cyst in your butt crack that makes it hurt to sit down. It’s like having a zit / bruise on the end of your spinal cord. This doctor always relieves my pain and is a very nice person. He makes it so sitting down is not a pain in my ass. Thanks for this!  — AT


Statements from patients with more complex problems:

Fantastic surgeon with a lot of knowledge, patience AND great bed side manners!  —  BB


My son had surgery for a pilonidal cyst 4 years ago, he continued to have pain after surgery, had 2 more surgeries last year and had to leave school because it got to the point where he could not sit anymore—we saw Dr Sternberg for this, he recommended a “cleft lift procedure”.  My son had surgery on 12/9/2009 and went back to college Jan 2 , pain free after 4 years — Dr. Sternberg did a great job!  Would highly recommend him! —  PT


I had my pilonidal for several years before I found this site (pilonidal.org) in my attempt to deal with the problem once and for all.

Through this site, I discovered the “cleft lift” proceedure as pioneered by Dr. John Bascom of Oregon. I decided to call Dr. Bascom, and he referred me to San Francisco based surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Sternberg who had been educated by Dr. Bascom as to how to perform the procedure.

I had the procedure and haven’t had any problems since! I’ve never had major surgery before, so I was a little unnerved by the whole process, which included a spinal anesthetic. I ended up having a drainage tube connected to the area for about a week after the procedure. Though inconvenient, it certainly beat having to do packing changes. The aftercare was pretty minimal, and in a few weeks I was back to normal.

I still have a little discomfort in the area where the abscess was if I put direct pressure on it, but that’s nothing compared to having a perpetually infected chronic abscess!

If you’re in the area, I highly suggest you check Dr. Sternberg out — GB


I had a cleft lift with Dr. Sternberg in San Francisco…it was great. No complaints, and he’s VERY nice. —  SS


I live in San Francisco, and I can’t speak greatly about Kaiser. I went to the Kaiser hospital here in the city and the one on the Peninsula close to Palo Alto and both rectal docs I saw there didn’t even recognize what was going on with me. I had a cleft lift, however, with Dr. Sternberg here in the city who is AMAZING!  — SS


I went to see Dr. Sternberg about my own pilonidal problems. I got the cleft lift procedure, and one of the first things he did (prior to surgery) was to look for the “pits” which he successfully removed during the procedure. The recovery was quicker than I had expected, and I’m quite satisfied with the results. Elated, even, after hearing recurrence horror stories with other techniques. I can’t recommend the Bascom cleft lift or the work of Dr. Sternberg highly enough. I’m a VERY satisfied customer. —  BA


I’ve been putting this off for a while, almost in disbelief that the pain in my behind is, indeed, behind me. It’s been a little over two years since surgery though, and I’m 100% back to normal life, aside from a miniscule scar and a story to tell, which is an admittedly awkward one at times.

If any of you are still seeking a cure, I highly, HIGHLY recommend the cleft lift procedure.  It’s the newest thing, with the lowest likelihood of recurrences, and quite minimal downtime. I was sitting on the couch like a normal person in short order (a couple weeks or so) with no packing of wounds, and relatively little inconvenience after having the drainage tube taken out, which was the worst part of the whole thing (and given the alternatives, a godsend).

If anyone happens to be living in the San Francisco bay area, I strongly urge you to visit Dr. Sternberg. He studied under Dr. Bascom, the doctor that pioneered and perfected the technique that, pardon the expression, saved my ass. I’m the type that fears the medical game and hack surgeons (I was raised by a nurse and heard more than enough horror stories), so I *really* did my research to find the procedure I wanted, and the right guy to do it. I even had to pay extra money versus the alternatives (thanks to less than mediocre insurance), but it was worth all the time and money I threw at it. — B


Doctors pay attention, Pilonidal Cyst Patients suffer NO more. Dr. Sternberg is the BEST! Worth the travel.

I am a nurse who had taken care of surgical patients since the late 1970′s, where these patients were butchered and suffered months of open wounds, infection, immobility and embarrassment because surgeons did not use the technique that has evolved and Dr. Sternberg performs. I can’t believe that surgeons even today are still using the “old techniques”.

I do know that change is difficult and even I had to really look critically & carefully at this different approach to treatment from what I was taught and saw for years. This is the main reason my husband who has had a pilonidal cyst for decades has not sought surgical intervention before this. His flare-ups have become more frequent which provoked research for treatment. He is basically lazy when it comes to this kind of stuff and depends on me. (different day/topic LOL)

With a bout of acute inflammation, need pain relief & treatment, we called Dr. Sternberg’s office and got an appointment the next day. They fit him in. The office staff were efficient, pleasant, empathetic and were able to prioritize his need. Despite fitting him in, we had essentially no wait in the office and were seen amazingly rapidly. It also did not seem to interfere with other patients having to wait extensively.The doctor temporarily drained the abscess, and made a return appt. for 2 weeks after for follow up and to assess for future treatment needs. Went back 2 weeks later and discussed future surgical needs. My husband is not one to sign up for these types of things,despite his annual distress with this medical problem decided after a day of processing to go with it.

Dr Sternberg was so personable, calm, comforting, professional, informative, knowledgeable and just real!!! Sometimes very hard to find in the medical field today!

Our insurance was also changing as of January 1st, which meant our co-pay would be 1-2k more. They were so sensitive to this and squeezed him in again (after juggling surgery centers, surgery times etc.) before 12/31. Surgery went well, Went back to work within 1 week of surgery sitting at a desk alot of the day with just a gauze pad in his underwear. Post op coarse and follow-up appts. went as well and efficiently as pre-op. This experience could not have been better. It is 2 months post op, healed and essentially cured.

Believe it or not this is a long story made short. If I could be community outreach to patients and medical staff for this procedure I would. Thank you to all!! — PA


It has been 1-year since my daughter’s surgery with Dr. Sternberg in San Francisco.  Her condition was discovered  in  Jan.09 when she sat on my son’s exercise dumb-bell. At first I thought it was just a bruised tail-bone. Three days later she came to me in tears and pain. When I looked at her back-side I saw some drainage, pits and two open slits/cuts down her crack. I took her to her pediatrician who referred her to a surgeon. He recommended removing the sinus and putting her on a wound-vac for 12-weeks. Two days before the surgery we cancelled it. First of all, her cyst had drained and she wasn’t in pain. Secondly I wasn’t sure that this procedure was the right one for her. Putting her through 12-weeks of wound-vac with changes to the sponge every-other day brought me to tears.

In the months that followed she had a reoccurrence of the open slits/cuts down her crack that took anywhere between 2-4 weeks to close. In the meantime, I did research with the help of the pilonidal website. I also asked Dr. Bascom for advice. I visited a total of 4 surgeons in my area. I decided on Dr. Sternberg in San Francisco. He is very familiar with pilonidal. He answered all my questions and reassured me and my daughter that the cleft-lift would not be painful and would resolve the condition. While I was skeptical, he was in fact correct. On June 24, 2009 she had surgery. He used a rubber-band drain on her which was removed 9-days later.    She took Vicodin only twice, once after surgery and once the following day.  The recovery time was approximately 10-days, which was the timeframe Dr. Sternberg had told us it would be. It has been 1 year since her surgery and aside from a reaction to a suture about 6-months after surgery, she has had no reoccurrence.  I have never dealt with a doctor like Dr. Sternberg, he makes himself available to answer questions and see patients if there are any concerns by patients or parents.   I recommend you visit a pilonidal site to obtain more information. — DG


The best of the best; that is what I rate this surgeon. If you are reading this you may be facing a surgical procedure in your future-not a comfortable place to be.  I know this because we were in this circumstance a few months ago with our close relative, who suffered from pilonidal disease.  We were fortunate to have found Dr. Sternberg.
As we soon found out, the problem with pilonidal disease is that this is an overlooked disease in medicine. There has been little research or improvements made, although people suffer from the disease and it is fairly common, just not talked about.  Dr. Sternberg is one of the few doctors who specialize in this disease and has improved his patients’ outcome. He has made a significant contribution to improving the surgical procedure for pilonidal sufferers.   Our relatives’ surgery went stunningly well.  He had an advanced and complicated condition so a quick and smooth recovery was so refreshingly appreciated. What most other surgeons offer is a brutally painful and slow recovering surgery, in contrast to my relative having had minimal pain and recovered in just a few weeks.  This smooth recovery is partly due to the surgical procedure and partly to Dr. Sternberg’s practiced skill at performing this surgery.  It was also comforting to know that this doctor has a very caring bedside manner. You are not left feeling like you are just another surgical case. This is a very skilled and knowledgeable surgeon in a “100 Best” surgical group.  I believe he would be excellent in all surgical procedures for which he is qualified.  Hence, the best of the best!  And if you are reading this because you are in need of a surgeon, I wish you a healthy recovery.

If you are suffering from Pilonidal disease, learn as much as you can, because the medical community as a whole has ignored this disease . It is very important for patients to become knowledgeable.  See pilonidalsurgery.com, Dr. Sternbergs’ website where the disease is explained clearly. This site will also link you to other pilonidal informative sites. — MY

Pilonidal Surgery

This website should help you with this important decision: what is the best surgical option for...

1) primary disease with multiple,
2) primary disease with large pits,
3) persistent or recurrent disease,
4) an unhealed wound after one or several pilonidal surgeries

To schedule an appointment please call or email Jan at 415-668-0416 jdeboer@sfsurgery.com

Dr. Jeffrey Sternberg

Dr Jeffrey Sternberg is a leading Colon and Rectal surgeon.Dr. Sternberg is active in the national leadership of the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons and has been elected President of the Northern California Chapter of the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgery. Extending his commitment to the care of patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Dr. Sternberg serves on the Board of Directors of the Northern California Chapter of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America.

Surgical Director, Center For Inflammatory Diseases
California Pacific Medical Center

Clinical Assistant Professor of Surgery
University of California San Francisco

Contact Dr. Sternberg through
San Francisco Surgical Medical Group.
415-668-0411
415-923-3020

Chrohns & Colitis Foundation

American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons