Wide-Awake Spinal Surgery May Represent The Future

When you think of spinal surgery, what do you picture? Do you see a patient immobilized and sedated for hours, having an enormous incision and months and months of recovery? If so, then we have news for you.

Most spine surgeries conducted today are performed in outpatient centers, using tiny incisions and microscopic instruments and allowing patients to walk out of the surgery center on their own power. Minimally invasive spine surgery is today’s reality, and every day surgeons are making greater strides to allow patients quicker and more painless recoveries.

One of the latest of these developments is that more and more spinal surgeries are being performed while the patients are completely awake and alert.

Though wide-awake surgery is not available or appropriate in all situations, they are becoming more and more common, with some patients even able to watch a video on a screen while their operations are being performed. The benefits are numerous: patients’ pain is managed through localized pain blocks rather than through general anesthesia or post-surgical narcotics, allowing them to avoid the sense of drowsiness and fogginess that often follows surgery. From the physician’s perspective, patients’ neurological conditions are much better monitored when they are conscious and responsive.

Overall, wide-awake surgery will deliver outcomes that are likely to be safer and better, and have the additional advantage of being more cost effective: fewer drugs mean lower price tags for patients, as well as shorter stays. 

Speaking of the advantages that wide-awake surgery provides, one spine surgeon said, “It allows me to locate what the pain generator is in real-time and fix it, and it ensures that the neurological structures are handled with great care during the surgery. It also facilitates a more professional environment in the operating room that is centered on taking care of the patient and respect for the patient.”

He went on to say, “This procedure utilizes pain blocks and local anesthesia rather than putting the patient to sleep and securing their airway with a breathing tube. It allows me to monitor the patient’s neurological condition in real-time, reduces postoperative narcotics, and eliminates the need for IV narcotics.”

From the patients’ perspective, a wide-awake surgery can cut hospital time for some more involved procedure from three to four days down to being able to leave the hospital on the same day or the next day. It also translates into much faster recovery times, an advantage that will be appealing to patients of all ages and all levels of activity and physical fitness.

One of the first questions that a patient asks when faced with the prospect of surgery is how long their recovery time will be: when will they be able to return to normal activities, go back to work, get back on the golf course, etc.  Not only does a wide-awake surgery hasten the return to activity, it also eliminates or significantly cuts the risk of dependency on opioids after the surgery.

For more information on the most appropriate treatment approach for your back or neck pain, the first step is a comprehensive evaluation by our spine specialist in New Jersey. Contact us today to set up a time for you to come in and learn what treatments will be best for you.

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