Not Your Father’s Back Surgery

January 13, 2020 Providence News Team

St. Jude Continues to Revolutionize Techniques and Outcomes

Most back pain sufferers don’t need surgery, but for those who do, today’s back procedures are almost unrecognizable from surgeries 20 years ago. In fact, new minimally-invasive, muscle-sparing techniques are often making the back surgeries of several years ago seem like the distant past.

“Improvements have been across-the-board, from the use of biologics and stem cells to reduce inflammation and accelerate healing, to endoscopic approaches through small incisions that minimize soft tissue damage,” explains Raed Ali, MD, board-certified in Orthopedics and a spine
surgeon at St. Jude Medical Center.

Repeatedly named one of the nation’s highest performing hospitals in spine surgery by Healthgrades, St. Jude surgeons are using advances to benefit diagnosis from degenerative disc disease and stenosis to scoliosis and tumors.

In addition to new bone graft materials, motion-sparing devices, and real-time CT-guidance during surgery, the hospital’s surgeons are using innovative approaches from anesthesia and non-opioid medicines to target multiple pain pathways—significantly reducing post-operative pain levels.

Newer procedures, such as artificial disc replacement are bringing important advantages to certain categories of patients, yet even the “workhorse” of back surgery—fusion—is a very different surgery than it was a decade ago.

“Fusion can now be an outpatient, minimally-invasive procedure with a recovery measured in days, not months, and with results that last longer and offer far better outcomes,” says Eric Lin, MD, board-certified in Orthopedics and a spine surgeon at St. Jude Medical Center. “For the
right patient, fusion can be life-changing.”

After evaluating Kelly Lutgen, a 52-year-old mother of five, Dr. Lin recommended a fusion to end her severe pain and restore her quality of life. Yet a fusion sounded daunting, and Kelly found a surgeon at a prominent academic center in Los Angeles who said simply removing a few pieces of bone—called a laminectomy—would take care of the pain. After the laminectomy, the excruciating pain remained—and she returned to Dr. Lin. “He was wonderful,” explains Kelly, who is back to swimming and exercising. “I had been living with pain that was beyond anything I could imagine or bear—and after the fusion, the pain was gone. Within a week I was off pain
medications, going to the grocery store and being a mom again. It was amazing.”

Accurately diagnosing neck and back pain and determining the best solution can be complicated, and it’s the reason behind St. Jude’s growing collection of quality and patient satisfaction awards. “It’s important to take that extra step, spend the time, and ensure the strategy is the correct one,” explains Dr. Ali. “Even the newest techniques and devices aren’t helpful if you can’t bring the right procedure to the right patient.”

To make an appointment with Dr. Ali or Dr. Lin, please call (714) 446-5192.

About the Author

The Providence News Team brings you the updates to keep you informed about what's happening across the organizational ecosystem. From partnerships to new doctor announcements, we are committed to keeping you informed.

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