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Navigated Spine Surgery: A Minimally Invasive Treatment Option for Patients

Posted on: September 3rd, 2021 by Lynne Pratt

Neck and back issues are common and can be disruptive to everyday life for many people, and that’s why neurosurgeons such as myself are here to help individuals determine the best options for care to improve quality of life.

My practice at OrthoIllinois specializes in neurosurgery and spine care, and I have a special interest in minimally invasive and navigated spine surgery. Before we dive deeper into those areas, let’s look more generally at the field of neurosurgery.

Neurosurgery encompasses brain and spine surgery, addressing conditions related to the neck, upper and lower back, and the brain.

Brain surgery can be required for everything from traumatic injuries (caused by a car crash, for instance) to aneurysms to brain tumors. Spine surgery is commonly performed to address regular wear and tear caused by arthritis but also infections, spine tumors, and everything in between.

In general, spine surgery and spine diagnoses are much more common. There are many more people living with neck and back issues related to sports injuries, overuse, and accidents. But as neurosurgeons, we are trained and prepared to work with patients who come through our doors with a variety of needs related to the head, neck, and back.

Let’s look at bit more at navigated spine surgery, which is one of my passions.

What is navigated spine surgery?

Navigation has been used for brain surgery for many years. It’s like having a GPS with us in the operating room that reinforces our movements and visualizations in real time. Navigation in spine surgery allows us to be even more minimally invasive in our approach: Patients have smaller incisions and procedures on average are shorter. Patients may have the option of outpatient spine surgery or shorter hospital stays.

That real-time imagery improves safety and precision, protecting the body even further during surgery. It also decreases radiation levels for staff in the operating room through less use of X-ray technology.

Navigated spine surgery really started coming to the forefront about 10 years ago and is, in part, a natural progression of the technology available to us as medical professionals – just as computers and cellphones have advanced through the years for all of us.

Is navigated spine surgery used for all spine surgeries?

There may be certain cases and conditions where navigated spine surgery may not be possible.

Spine surgery generally is split into two areas: Decompression spine surgery removes areas that are causing compression on nerves and other parts of a patient’s spine, while fusion spine surgery places hardware such as rods and screws into the spine to help with stabilization.

This is why it’s so important for me to listen and understand a patient’s symptoms so that I can provide them with the education needed to understand their diagnosis, as well as the options available to treat their condition. Together, we make decisions that are best for their unique situation.

Surgery to decompress the spine is often used for conditions such as a slipped disc or spinal stenosis. Fusion surgery addresses those instability issues where the spine is actually moving abnormally, whether caused by trauma, broken bones, or normal wear and tear.

My goal is to maximize nonsurgical options for patients as much as possible, which may include care from one of our physical medicine and rehabilitation doctors and treatments such as pain injections or physical therapy.

Because there are so many options for treatment available, taking the first steps to address your neck or back pain can feel intimidating and overwhelming. We’re here to help guide you on that journey. Call us at 815-398-9491 or request an appointment online to get started.


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