New York Methodist Hospital (NYM) has incorporated a revolutionary new neurosurgical technique into its lineup of minimally invasive procedures for spine surgery. Through this lateral access (sideways approach) technique, neurosurgeons at NYM can now minimize or even eliminate the need to dissect muscle to reach the spine for a procedure.
"Every year, nearly 600,000 Americans have spinal surgery, whether it's to address stenosis, chronic pain, tumors, scoliotic deformities, trauma or another condition affecting the spine or spinal column," said Martin Zonenshayn, M.D., chief of neurosurgery at NYM. "For any spine surgery patient, we want to minimize the post-operative impact. Although some conditions may necessitate traditional "open" surgery, many operations can now be performed using minimally invasive and lateral access techniques, resulting in less pain, shorter hospital stays and faster recovery."
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One such lateral access procedure is lateral access spinal fusion, in which two or more vertebrae (backbones) are permanently joined together. Spinal fusion is often used to eliminate painful movement of the spine, or to keep the spine stable after injury, infection or removal of a tumor.
"During lateral access spinal fusion, we create a small 'pathway,' roughly two inches wide, to the spine through an incision in the patient's side, allowing us to avoid dissecting back muscles and tissues," said Alexandros Zouzias, M.D., attending neurosurgeon at NYM, who performs the lateral access procedures. "However, this pathway must be created with the utmost precision. When we access the spine from the lateral position, there is a plexus of nerves surrounding the sides of the spine. Those spinal nerves are crucial to the body's motor function, and dissecting them to reach the spine is simply not an option. By using cutting edge devices that stimulate the nerves as we create that pathway, we are able to use electrical pulses that accurately locate and navigate around those nerves, just like a submarine uses sonar to determine its distance from objects underwater. Once we have completed the pathway to the spine, we perform the spinal fusion by removing the old cartilage and replacing it with biologic substitutes that will trigger the body's natural bone growth, fusing the two vertebrae together."
The lateral access technique can be used for procedures to treat a number of other conditions of the lumbar (lower) and thoracic (middle) spine, including primary and metastatic tumors of the spinal cord or spinal column, instability of the spine, trauma and scoliosis.