Dr. Kim explains how minimally invasive surgery can help a patient who has spinal stenosis.
One of the most common problems that I treat with minimally invasive surgery is spinal stenosis, and I see that very frequently because this is a problem that comes on gradually but has a great effect on your quality of life. So a patient with spinal stenosis typically tends to be in the 65 age group.
They have retired from their profession, but they are still very healthy and very active and want to participate in a number of leisure activities. But when you have spinal stenosis, it’s very difficult to stand or walk because the nerves are pinched, and as you stand or walk for too long your legs start to ache.
And so that puts a damper on many activities–golf, tennis, hiking, walking, exercise programs, etc. So when a patient like that in that age group needs surgery, doing these surgeries minimally invasively is a great benefit because it decreases the amount of post operative pain.
It decreases the recovery time. It decreases the hospital stay. It decreases the blood loss and a host of other things that allow the patient ultimately to get back to their lifestyle as soon as possible because life is short, and we don’t want to spend time recovering. We want to spend time doing the activities that provide a quality of life, that provide enjoyment for us.
So a typical lumbar stenosis patient will have two or three levels of involvement. It’s usually not just one level, and so when we do the surgery open, it’s a very large incision. They stay in the hospital for several days. They often will need a blood transfusion, and depending on how frail you are before the operation, especially in patients that have had it for a long time and that have been putting off surgery, they are really out of condition. So after surgery they need a lot of help, and many have to go to a nursing home.
So when I used to do the surgery open, they’d stay in the hospital for several days; they’d often need a blood transfusion, and they often went to a nursing home afterwards, and we made these plans ahead of time. Now, we do the surgery and the patients either go home the same day. The same patient with the same problem have essentially the same surgery but done with a minimally invasive strategy, using minimally invasive tools, they go home the same day or the next day.
I cannot remember the last time I had to send somebody to a nursing home, and I can’t remember the last time I had to send somebody to an ICU or give them a blood transfusion, and literally, they are up and about that night. And many patients, although I still don’t believe it, say they have no pain or their pain has gone. And I think because they were in so much pain before surgery, it doesn’t make sense that they’d have no pain right after surgery.
But it is amazing how many patients say that they feel perfect, and they get back to their lifestyle rapidly. They get back to their hobbies. They start their walking routine right away. We don’t put them in braces. We don’t wait three months to start physical therapy; that physical therapy starts in a few weeks, so the difference is dramatic, especially in that age group of patients.
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.