The spine is not only responsible for a good posture, but its health also reflects on the person’s well-being. While not all back pain cases require surgery, in certain cases, the surgeon may recommend spinal surgery.

Dr. Thomas Frimpong is a neurosurgeon with a fellowship training in minimally invasive and complex spinal surgery. Dr. Frimpong has been practicing for more than 10 years as a neurosurgeon and spinal surgery specialist. He is currently affiliated with the Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, Kansas. Dr. Frimpong performs minimally invasive surgery. Thanks to new technological advances and recent research, spinal surgery in 2021 offers hope to millions of people who suffer from severe back pain.

Who Might Need Spinal Surgery?

Before the spine surgeon recommends surgery, they will often suggest other types of therapy to alleviate back pain with the help of an expert in pain and spine Fort Washington. These could involve spinal injections, physical therapy, regular exercise, or prescription drugs such as ibuprofen.

According to Dr. Thomas Frimpong, when the condition persists even after applying the above forms of treatment, then spinal surgery might be recommended. This is especially true for patients with the following conditions:

  • People with bone spurs in the spine. This could be a byproduct of arthritis that puts pressure on the spinal cord.
  • A spine injury that results in a slipped disc. If the condition does not improve over time, surgery might be required.
  • Stenosis and other degenerative spinal diseases that cause weakness.
  • Common symptoms such as weakness and numbness in the legs or arms, especially when combined with back pain.
  • A spinal infection, especially when it is accompanied by fever and back pain.
  • Finding it hard to use one’s hands, operate machinery, or walk normally.
  • A back injury that results in a dislocated or broken bone in the back.
  • People who have a tumor on the spinal cord.

Timing is Crucial in Neurosurgery

When it comes to spinal surgery, the neurosurgeon may recommend the procedure, but it is up to the patient to make the decision as well as the time of the surgery. Dr. Thomas Frimpong explains that while majority of spine surgeries are elective procedures, in some cases when a condition will significantly worsen if surgery is not achieved, the spinal surgery is performed in an urgent or emergent manner.

If the patient suffers from a degenerative condition or a herniated disc, surgery might be the last resort. The patient has the option to choose from other forms of therapy such as physical therapy or spinal injection. If these treatments do not help and the body does not heal on its own, then the spinal surgeon would recommend surgery.

But what if the condition is accompanied by severe pain or the patient suffers from a spinal injury? In that case, says Dr. Thomas Frimpong, the sooner the procedure is performed the better. Some patients might experience apprehension on having spinal surgery and delay it if possible. That could result in more complications, so it is better to adhere to the spinal surgeon’s advice and, if in doubt, to seek a second opinion.

Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery (MISS)

Some health conditions related to the spine or bones could shift the vertebral bones and put pressure on the spinal nerves. This is most common among patients who suffer from scoliosis, bone spurs, spinal tumors, and herniated discs. Dr. Thomas Frimpong recommends minimal invasive spine surgery if the procedure is right for their condition. MISS exposes the soft tissues and muscles to less trauma, which result in less postoperative pain and makes the recovery time shorter in comparison to traditional open spine surgery.

The benefits of MISS do not stop there. Since the skin incisions are small, the scars they leave behind are minimal and barely noticeable. Muscle damage and blood loss are often minimal and there is less risk of infections.

How MISS Works

The spine is often cushioned and protected by groups of muscles. So, for spinal surgery to gain access to the vertebra and spinal nerves, those muscles need to be pushed aside. Since MISS uses only small skin incisions, Dr. Thomas Frimpong explains that special guiding instruments are often used. The idea is to dilate the soft tissues and muscles instead of cutting through them as is often the case in open spinal surgery.

The surgeon uses tubular retractor, endoscope, microscope, or surgical loupes to gain access to their surgical target.  In surgeries where rods and screws are needed to stabilize the spine, MISS makes extensive displacement of muscles redundant. Usually, the surgeon uses a technique called percutaneous placement to insert the screws and rods without cutting the muscles. This technique involves using X-ray images to install guidewires that make it easy for screws to fit into place.

Dr. Thomas Frimpong on Spinal Surgery Trends in 2021

With the recent advances in technologies, future trends in spinal surgery will rely more and more on technology. This does not just involve MISS but other fields of neurosurgery as well. Dr. Thomas Frimpong anticipates that image guidance (IG) would have a bigger role to play in MISS. “Since we have limited visualization in an MIS procedure,” he explains, “IG allows us to better navigate our equipment and gain more visualization even through a small incision. I expect computer-assisted navigation to be the way of the future.”

Another spinal surgery trend to look out for in 2021 would be the increased efficiency of MIS procedures. As the surgeries become more hi-tech, excessive tray use and unnecessary sterilization will become a thing of the past. Moreover, most of these procedures would become cost-effective, making them more affordable for many patients.

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