Summer 2003 Issue

Why A Neurosurgeon Is The Best Choice For Spine Treatment

Neurosurgeons are usually associated with treating brain injuries and disorders. However, in most cases, a neurosurgeon can provide the highest level of expertise when it comes to treating spine disorders. That's because neurosurgeons actually complete more spinal surgery training than any other specialty and are the only physicians who treat the entire spine. This includes the spinal cord itself, as well as the structures that can exert pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots, such as herniated discs or bony overgrowths from degenerative arthritis of the spine.

Because neurosurgeons spend about 70 percent of their time treating spine problems, and have extensive training related to diseases of the spine, they are familiar with all treatment options and can determine which option will be the most effective for each patient.

This neurosurgical expertise, along with our group's dedicated emphasis to the development and implementation of new spine surgery options, makes Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates uniquely qualified to treat complex spine cases.

With a team of neurosurgeons offering over 220 years of combined spine experience, we provide treatment of:

• Fractures
• Tumors
• Spinal Trauma
• Disc Herniation
• Disc Disease
• Bone Spurs
• Compressed Nerve Root
• Degenerative Spine Diseases
• Spinal Stenosis
• Spinal Cord Injury
• Spondylolisthesis

Surgery Isn’t The First Option
While neurosurgeons are poised to offer highly advanced surgical techniques when needed, the nonsurgical approach is generally the first option with our patients. Anti-inflammatory medication, epidural steroid injections, physical therapy or pain medication are usually utilized before surgery is considered.

If Surgery Is Necessary
Neurosurgeons offer a wide variety of surgical options to help correct spine disorders. The most common procedure is a discectomy, which involves removing the soft gel-like material in the disc. This procedure relieves the pressure on the nerve. With the spinal cord and nerves millimeters away, precision and delicacy are keys to a successful and safe procedure. Discectomies are performed endoscopically on both the cervical and lumbar spine at Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates, allowing for smaller incisions, greater precision and faster patient recovery.

“In the past, some patients didn’t consider surgery because the prospect of a long recovery period seemed overwhelming,” said Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates complex spine specialist Rick Finger, M.D. “The new minimally invasive procedures available today are allowing patients to leave the hospital as early as the day of surgery and returning to normal activities in days instead of weeks.”

The Forefront Of Technology
An example of an innovative, minimally invasive procedure available at our practice is cervical microendoscopic discectomy (MED). This surgery to correct herniated discs in the cervical spine was developed by practice neurosurgeon, Tim Adamson, M.D. With MED, a one-half inch incision in the back of the neck is needed, resulting in less pain for the patient and reducing recovery time from eight weeks to ten days. It’s estimated that 80 percent of herniated disc patients are candidates for MED.

Cervical MED is FDA approved and Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates has performed more than 800 of these surgeries, the most of any practice in the country. Surgeons from around the region and the world have come to our practice for training in this technique.

If several nerves and discs are the cause of the pain, or there is degeneration and instability in the spinal column, spinal fusion may be necessary using bone grafts and instrumentation to stabilize the vertebra.
“Fusion is used to add stability and prevent the disc from bulging or herniating again,” said Dr. Finger.

New advancements in spinal fusion are being explored at Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates. Our practice was chosen as one of only 22 sites for an international clinical trial to determine the safety and effectiveness of OP-1 Putty in lumbar spinal fusions (see related article in this issue).

A Cradle Of Innovation
The implementation of new surgical techniques for the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine have put Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates at the forefront of treatment for disc disease and other conditions. For more information about neurosurgical options available for patients with spine injuries or disorders, or to schedule a patient appointment, call 800-344-6716.

Reasons For Consulting A Neurosurgeon For A Patient’s Spine Disorder

• Neurosurgeons complete more spinal surgery training than any other specialty
• Neurosurgeons are trained on diseases of the spine throughout their seven-year residency
• Neurosurgeons are the only physicians who treat the entire spine including the spinal cord
• Neurosurgeons spend about 70 percent of their time treating spine problems.”

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