JAN. 5, 2005 | A neurosurgeon at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) recently performed the first endoscopic spinal surgery in Arkansas on the herniated disc of a patient who can expect a quick and full recovery.
T. Glenn Pait, M.D., an associate professor of Neurosurgery and Orthopaedic Surgery in the UAMS College of Medicine, performed the minimally invasive surgery Dec. 1 to pulverize and remove the ruptured lumbar disc using an endoscope inserted into the back of the patient, Kent Wilson of Sherwood. Wilson had been hobbled for several months by severe back pain and chose the endoscopic surgery as a treatment that offered a quick recovery.
“Making the endoscopic spinal surgery treatment available in Arkansas gives us a new option for easing the often severe pain associated with ruptured lumbar discs,” Pait said. “This technique offers patients a minimally invasive treatment, with a faster recovery time than other surgical treatments.”
Intervertebral discs serve as cushions or shock absorbers between the sections of the back bones or vertebrae. The discs consist of an outer, tough tissue with a nucleus full of a jelly-like material. As a person ages, the outer tissue often develops tiny tears and the substance in the disc nucleus can come out through the tears, resulting in a herniation or rupture.
The endoscopic spinal surgery involved an endoscope, placed through a small incision on the side of the back, through which a camera and tools are then inserted for finding, pulverizing and removing the herniated disc. The endoscope goes through muscle but does not touch any nerve or require drilling through bone to reach the disc as with other treatments that also require longer recovery periods.
A local anesthetic is used during the surgery and the patient remains awake. In Wilson’s case, he answered questions from the surgical team as the procedure progressed to let them know he remained comfortable and was not feeling any pain in his legs. Wilson stood without difficulty in the recovery room after the surgery.
Pait said the decision to pursue the minimally invasive surgery versus other surgical or non-surgical treatments for a herniated disc depends on each patient’s circumstances, including age, medical history and condition.
Wilson, a registered nurse at UAMS who also operates a lawn irrigation business, returned to work at the hospital 12 days after the surgery but still has some restrictions on lifting. Paitt said Wilson, who said he had no previous back problems, will likely be able to return to unrestricted movement about six weeks after the surgery.
Joseph Rauchwerk, M.D., of New Orleans served as a surgical consultant during the procedure.
UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, five centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has about 2,170 students and 650 residents and is the state’s largest public employer with almost 9,000 employees. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of $4 billion a year.
UAMS centers of excellence are the Arkansas Cancer Research Center, Harvey and Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy and Jackson T. Stephens Spine and Neurosciences Institute.
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