Dr. Kim describes how a patient with spondylolisthesis can benefit from minimally invasive spine surgery.
One of the most important problems that we treat is a problem called spondylolisthesis. And the way we do that surgery today using minimally invasive techniques greatly reduces the amount of post-operative pain, quickens the recovery time, and allows patients to get back to their normal activities very quickly.
Not very long ago, and I would say in many places even today, the standard open treatment for that is vastly different. This problem of spondylolisthesis is an alignment problem where one bone has slipped forward on the other. So to fix this problem one has to pull back that slipped vertebra and keep it in that position, and in many cases we have to use screws and rods.
So when this is done open, it requires a big incision with lots of bleeding. And a patient like that, when I used to do the surgery open, in contrast to the way it’s done today minimally invasively, those patients done open may need to stay in the hospital for five days. They may need a blood transfusion.
Oftentimes they’ll have to go to a nursing home to complete their recovery because it takes a while to recover from a surgery of that magnitude, but if we do this surgery minimally invasively we do the same thing. We still pull back the spine and realign the spine and repair that slipped vertebrae. We stabilize the spine and we still use all the implants that we use for open surgery to keep it there.
But by simply using smaller incisions and specialized tools and really eliminating a lot of the soft tissue trauma, those patients may go home the very next day or the day after. They hardly ever need a blood transfusion, and I cannot remember the last time I have had to send somebody to a nursing home for further recovery.
These patients done minimally invasively, they get up that night. They immediately notice that their leg pain from the pinched nerve is better. They may have some back pain from the surgery, but they also notice that their back pain is very different.
The back pain of a slipped vertebra is very unnerving. It’s an instability pain that people are just constantly in fear of turning around the wrong way and having an attack whereas a surgery pain is kind of a constant dull ache. You know that it’s temporary, and patients see a benefit from the surgery very quickly because the surgery pain isn’t so great that it masks all these other problems. And a patient with spondylolisthesis treated minimally invasively has a drastically different recovery and outcome than patients that have that same problem treated with traditional open techniques.
About Dr. Kim, M.D.:
Dr. Choll Kim graduated cum laude from Harvard Medical School and completed his fellowship training in complex spine surgery at the Mayo Clinic. He is board certified by American Board of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Dr. Kim is a nationally known expert in the modern field of computer-assisted minimally invasive spine surgery. He has trained specialists throughout the country on the safe and effective application of state-of-the-art techniques using image guidance and navigation technologies.