Traveling For Surgery?


“If you can travel to San Francisco to dine at a fine restaurant or see a show, you can certainly travel to San Francisco to improve your life!”  -Anonymous grateful patient


Why travel for your surgery?

It is important that you have the right procedure done the first time. Most medical practitioners don’t understand the optimal treatment for pilonidal disease, and many have little interest in the disease because it has been so difficult to treat in the past.  Few surgeons know about the cleft lift procedure, and many who claim to perform the procedure have minimal experience with it.  The cleft lift procedure is arguably the treatment of choice for pilonidal disease requiring surgery.  Rather than undergoing an inadequate operation and developing a recurrent abscess, you are better off consulting a surgeon who has experience treating difficult pilonidal disease.  Remember, only a handful of surgeons in the United States really have significant experience with the cleft lift procedure.


Does your hospital have a board certified colon & rectal surgeon?

Board certification and high practice volume are two important factors to consider when choosing a surgeon.  Studies show that both factors lead to better outcomes.  A board certified Colon and Rectal Surgeon has completed five or more years of general surgical training (Dr. Sternberg has had 8) and an additional fellowship year in Colon and Rectal Surgery.  Passage of the written and oral examinations given by both the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery is required.  Colon and Rectal Surgeons are committed to the highest standards of care for patients with diseases affecting the lower gastrointestinal tract.  Studies demonstrate that well-trained Colon and Rectal Surgeons have lower complication rates, lower mortality rates, and overall better outcomes than non-fellowship trained general surgeons for colo-rectal diseases.

I perform the majority of cleft lift procedures at the Presidio Surgery Center, an outpatient facility of California Pacific Medical Center.  For procedures requiring a higher level of care (if you have significant medical issues or are significantly overweight) I operate at California Pacific Medical Center, a world-class tertiary level teaching hospital. Our CPMC anesthesiologists are top notch. You cannot find a better team elsewhere.


The Sternberg Clinic’s staff helps you every step of the way

My helpful office staff is a vital part of my cohesive practice. They are available to assist you with scheduling appointment, tests, and surgery and are happy to answer your questions or direct you to me if needed.


Making surgery in San Francisco work

If you live outside of the San Francisco Bay Area you should contact Dr. Sternberg prior to making an appointment. Please email  a concise history of your story (with an emphasis on your pilonidal condition) well in advance of your trip (see the instructions below). If you have any significant medical issues (e.g. Asthma, high blood pressure, heart issues, kidney issues, obesity, diabetes….) you should have a history and physical exam from your local primary doctor prior to traveling to San Francisco but within one month of your scheduled surgery. Dr. Sternberg’s office will assist your medical clearance if needed.

Here are the instructions for arranging your consultation and surgery if you live far away: Please make the history brief (bulleted points are best) and make sure to answer the following questions:

  • How old are you and what's your date of birth?
  • Where do you live?
  • What’s your cell phone and the cell phone number (and name, relationship) of your contact person who will be traveling with you?
  • Who is your pediatrician or primary care doctor (include address and phone number)?
  • If you’ve had surgery for pilonidal disease, who was your surgeon (address and phone number) and did your surgeon suggest that you contact me?
  • When did you first notice the condition (month, year)?
  • Have you required any office or emergency room drainage procedures, and how many?
  • Have you required operations in an operating room? How many, and when? If so, were the incisions closed or left open requiring packing?
  • How long did you require wound care?
  • Have you ever had a ‘Wound Vac’? For how long?
  • Very Important: have you been on more than one course of antibiotics in the last year for your pilonidal problem?  If yes, do you have an open or persistently draining wound? If yes, you will need to have a bacterial culture with sensitivities of the wound performed (within two months of your scheduled surgery) and sent to us at least two weeks before your trip.

Also include:

  • A list of any other operations you have had
  • Any medical conditions you have
  • A list of your medications
  • Any allergies you may have.
  • Your accurate height and weight.  No cheating, please.  Accuracy is essential as If your BMI is close to or greater than 40, It may influence which facility we can perform your surgery at.  Here’s a link to a BMI calculator.

Please attach to the email 2 photos taken by someone who can see your bottom. Yes, another person: no cheating. It’s impossible for you to take adequate photos. For instructions on how to take the proper photos, please click here.

Send this to:

How will this all play out?

If you are traveling to consult with Dr. Sternberg the office staff will arrange a visit a day or so before your scheduled surgical procedure.  The procedure is an out patient operation, and you should arrange comfortable accommodations in San Francisco proper.  Staying farther away is not advised as a long car ride immediately after surgery can lead to discomfort and increase your chance of having postoperative complications. In addition, Dr. Sternberg will want to meet with you and the person helping you with the drain on the day following surgery. So staying close by is really important. Excellent hotel accommodations are available in San Francisco. Airbnb is another excellent option.


Please don't rent a car for travel in San Francisco

San Francisco is an exciting but congested city. Driving and finding and parking can be frustrating and anxiety provoking. And parking is expensive. Unless you are planning an outside of San Francisco proper, please don’t plan to rent a car. San Francisco has a great deal of traffic and there is always a tremendous amount of road work going on. You would be better off taking a car service such as Lyft or Uber. Yellow cabs are unreliable. If you don’t have these apps on your smart phone please download there here and enter your credit card information. Everyone in SF gets around by these cab services.

If you do rent a car for out of town excursions, please don’t leave anything exposed in your car! No luggage, purses, gym bags, sunglasses….. San Francisco, unfortunately, is the “break my car window and grab my bag” capital of north America. We don’t want you to be a victim.

How far have patients traveled from to The Sternberg Clinic?  

Given Dr. Sternberg’s internationally-recognized expertise in pilonidal surgery, it’s no surprise that 40% of his pilonidal patients have traveled to San Francisco from outside of California. This includes: Nevada, Oregon, Washington State and the Mid-West. Additionally, many patients have traveled from other countries, including: Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, and the Asian cities of Tokyo, Qatar, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Bejing, Canton, and Seoul. Dr. Sternberg welcomes patients from anywhere throughout the United States and abroad.


The Sternberg Clinic
77 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 300
Civic Center, Hayes Valley

San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: 415-821-8000
Office Hours

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