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Spine Surgery Has Come a Long Way
Dr. Eric D. Nabors

Dr. Eric D. Nabors

Surgery of the spine has come a long way, especially in the past 10 years. Technology and improved surgical techniques have allowed for spine surgery to join the world of minimally invasive surgery. Minimally invasive surgery has the advantages of smaller incisions, quicker healing, less pain, less bleeding, and lower risk of infection and other complications.

In the Pittsburgh region, spine specialist Eric D. Nabors, M.D., a board certified orthopaedic surgeon at South Hills Orthopaedic Surgery Associates sees patients of all ages and activity levels who have back pain, often as a result of a herniated discs, degenerative discs and stenosis.

Laparoscopic surgery has transformed procedures such as gall bladder removal, appendectomy, colon surgery, and virtually all abdominal and pelvic surgeries to outpatient or overnight stays in the hospital. Arthroscopic hip and knee surgery make all but joint replacements minor procedures. Now with MRI's giving precise images of spinal problems, experience gained from analyzing the results of decades of surgery, and better surgical instruments, the majority of spinal surgery can be performed by minimally invasive techniques.

"Herniated discs in the low back can be removed through cannulas (small tubes) that only require a tiny incision and no cutting of muscle. There is no such thing as arthroscopic spine surgery. That only applies to surgery in a joint such as the knee or shoulder, but this is close." Dr. Nabors says. "It is done as an outpatient and patients can be back to work in as little as a few days. Herniated discs and pinched nerves in the neck are treated through one inch incisions, often as an outpatient as well."

Compression fractures, which affect mostly older patients with osteoporosis, can be treated with an outpatient procedure called kyphoplasty. It is performed by placing large needles into the compressed (broken/fractured) vertebrae (spine bone), then placing a deflated balloon into the vertebra and inflating it to re-expand the bone. The balloon is then removed and bone "cement" is injected to fill the cavity created by the balloon. Medicare has even approved this procedure to be performed in properly equipped offices, a popular choice for many who suffer with this type of fracture.

Laminectomies, a procedure that involves relieving pressure on nerves and fusions, surgery to correct shifted spine and bones used to require 6-8 inch incisions and 4-5 day hospital stays can now be performed through 2-3 inch incisions and hospital stays of only 1-2 days. Chronic back and leg pain, without a correctable cause, can be treated with a high tech, minimally invasive procedure called spinal cord stimulation (also known as neuromodulation). A tiny electrode is placed onto the spinal cord and an electric current then "short circuits" back and/or leg pain. "It has been a miracle cure for many of my patients who suffer and have not found relief with surgery or other treatments" Dr. Nabors explains.

Although there has been much in the news about laser surgery for the spine, Dr. Nabors does not recommend it. "You won't find laser spine surgery at any major medical center. For those intrigued by laser surgery, I encourage you to do a little research. Google Hulk Hogan's experience at the laser spine center, or the Bloomberg article regarding lawsuits at the center."

For more information on minimally invasive spine surgery, Dr. Nabors suggest Medtronic's website for patient information at http://www.medtronic.com/patients.

Dr. Nabors sees patients Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at his new office in the St. Clair Hospital Outpatient Center at 2000 Oxford Drive, Suite 211 in Bethel Park. To contact South Hills Orthopedic Associates, visit the website www.southhillsortho.com or call (412) 283-0260.

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