Supporting healthy back and spine care with new surgical techniques
Life can be hard on your back. All of the lifting, bending and twisting you do takes a physical toll. An estimated 30 million people in the U.S. suffer from significant back pain. Fortunately, most back pain can be treated without surgery or with Minimally Invasive Spinal Surgery (MISS).
Minimally Invasive Spinal Surgery (MISS)
Traditionally, patients have dreaded back surgery, since it meant a long stressful operation, a deep and painful wound and months of recovery. During traditional open spine surgery, the surgeon makes an incision of 15-25 centimeter in length and then muscles and ligaments are resected and peeled back to expose the spine. As a result, patients suffer blood loss and many need three to four months or more to recover. With MISS, many spinal operations can be completed within hours using only two or three smaller incisions and keeping the patients back muscles intact. In many cases, our patients are back on their feet within hours and can be back at work within three to four weeks.
According to Ian T. Johnson, MD, Neurosurgeon at Saint Agnes Care Brain & Spine Institute, the growing use of MISS has changed the treatment paradigms for spinal disease. Until recently, many elderly patients with severe spinal stenosis have been ruled ineligible for open surgery because they have impaired heart/lung function and cannot undergo the stress of general anesthesia and the trauma of traditional spine surgery.
“About 25-40 percent of those elderly patient’s can now be treated with MISS,” he says. “The operation can be completed in much less time, with less blood loss, and patients go home sooner. Often times, these patients can walk with significantly reduced pain for the first time in years.”
The spread of minimally invasive spine surgery comes at a time when the United States and other nations are facing a major rise in the diagnosis of spinal disease. This trend is fueled by a population that is aging rapidly; nearly 48 million Americans are now over 65. Younger patients (e.g., working adults) with a variety of spinal conditions can also benefit from MISS techniques. Previously, spinal surgery was viewed as a last resort because it was so traumatic. In fact, physicians sometimes delayed surgery for several years with the idea that they should wait until the spine deteriorated beyond repair.
“Today, with MISS, we can think incrementally,” Dr. Johnson explains. “We generally recommend that a patient come in for an interim or small-scale procedure. Within a 1-2 hour surgical procedure, we are able to decompress a nerve and stabilize the spinal segment, allowing the patient to be back to work within a few short weeks.”
Dr. Johnson is a Board-certified neurosurgeon who specializes in minimally invasive and complex spinal surgery and cranial surgery for brain tumors.
He has been practicing in the Central Valley since 2011. Dr. Johnson most recently served as an Associate Clinical Professor and the founding Chief of the Department of Neurological Surgery at University of California, San Francisco-Fresno.
“My interest in medicine sparked in high school when my twin nieces were born prematurely,” he says. “As I grew older, I also developed a desire and an interest in treating and helping individuals with brain and spine disorders.”
Our care philosophy
Our multidisciplinary team prides itself on offering the most advanced technology and innovative techniques, for neurological care that’s unrivaled in the Central Valley. This means patients get the care they need right here at home, delivered by experts who are part of our community.