ST. LOUIS – Many spinal surgical procedures can now be performed using a new medical technique of minimally invasive image guided surgery. Dennis Mollman, M.D., Ph.D., SLUCare neurosurgeon, was a pioneer in the use of image guidance in minimally invasive approaches to spinal surgery and brought it to St. Louis.
Minimally invasive surgery is equally effective as traditional spinal surgery, but is less disruptive of tissues and offers several benefits to patients. The procedure uses small incisions, only two or three inches long, which are less invasive than the foot-long incisions used in traditional operations.
"We are actually splitting the muscles rather than cutting them," said Mollman, an associate professor of neurosurgery at Saint Louis University. "Instead of coming down the middle (of the spine), we come in from the side and pass a series of small, stackable tubes through the muscles using the image guided technology."
Mollman says that most degenerative spine disease can be treated with minimally invasive surgery.
The new procedure uses a scanning device called the O-arm for image guidance - allowing the surgeon to scan the patient and see what they are doing on a navigation computer screen.
"I just pass the screws and rods through very small incisions and do the same operation with image guidance," said Mollman. "It's less traumatic to the patient's tissues and accomplishes the same job."
The new technique can drastically reduce the amount of scaring and recovery time because of the reduced trauma to the muscles and other tissues. Patients can return to light activity within six weeks, compared to the three-month recovery period of traditional surgery.
In addition to shorter hospital stays and recovery time, the minimally invasive technique reduces surgical time and significantly decreases the amount of blood loss during surgery.
Nationally accredited and with more than 500 physicians, SLUCare is the medical practice group of Saint Louis University School of Medicine. The school educates physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health care on a local, national and international level.
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