Cutting edge back surgery at Baptist Health

The Journal interviews Sergio Gonzalez-Arias, MD, PhD, FACS, Medical Director, Baptist Hospital Neuroscience Center, Chief, Department of Neuroscience and Neurosurgery, Baptist Hospital of Miami about ground-breaking new back surgery currently being undertaken there. Surgeons recently undertook a live surgery broadcast on the internet.

Can you tell me about what the surgery actually entails?
The particular surgery performed live was a minimally invasive approach for the removal of a large disc herniation.  It is performed through a small skin incision using tubular retractors and a microscope. This permits achieving the surgical goals of nerve decompression while minimizing damage to the soft tissues (like skin and muscle) through which we approach the spine.

What kind of anesthetic does the patient require?
General anesthesia provides the best and safest environment for patients.

What type of back pain does the surgery alleviate?
Most often herniated discs create significant pain down either or both legs, which can be dramatically improved after surgery.

Does the surgery employ new technology/equipment/procedures?
If so, can you give me a bit more background?
We use tubular retractors and high microscope magnification to minimise injury as we approach the spine.  Highly precise, specialised surgical instruments are used that allow working through a 16-18 mm tube.

How long do you expect the patient to be pain free – forever, or will they need follow up surgery?
Patients improve significantly after disc surgery for the most part.  It is difficult to predict whether new symptoms can present in the future.  Spinal conditions are so prevalent and complex in nature that other problems, unrelated to the original disc condition can present.

What’s the success rate so far?
Our success rate for minimally invasive microlumbar discectomy is very high.

How straightforward would it be for someone from Cayman to undertake the surgery?
A phone call to Baptist Health International Services is all that it takes to quickly coordinate a visit with a physician, and undergo surgery if indicated. We routinely see patients a few days after surgery to check on the incision and their recovery. 

When could they fly home post-surgery?
The patient is usually released back home after the post-operative visit with instructions to resume normal daily activities and an exercise program geared to have them back to exertional activities and sports 4-6 weeks after surgery.

Anything else you may wish to add?
More than 1500 minimally invasive microlumbar discectomies have been performed at our Center over the last 10 years.  The Baptist Hospital Neuroscience Center is committed to providing state-of-the-art, evidence-based care to all patients with spine and brain conditions.