Spine surgery at NewYork Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center is directed by neurosurgeon Roger Härtl, MD.
Minimally Invasive Surgery
When surgery on the spine is necessary, our surgeons may use a minimally invasive approach. By entering the spine through small incisions, the surgeon can repair injured discs, treat compression fractures, insert instrumentation, and perform spinal fusion between affected vertebrae. The advantages of a minimally invasive approach are multifold:
- smaller incisions mean smaller scars, quicker healing, and less risk of infection
- frequently takes less time to complete than conventional "open" surgical procedures
- spares trauma to the muscles and soft tissues, speeding recovery time
- requires a shorter (1-3 day) hospital stay, about half that of open surgery
- is associated with a lower risk of postoperative complications
- enables quicker return to a normal level of activity
We perform the full range of surgical approaches for relieving neck and back pain, including:
Computer navigation for spine surgery: We use state-of-the-art computer-controlled imaging systems during surgery to precisely locate the specific parts of the spine involved. These systems allow the surgeon to know exactly where he is in the spine at all times, enabling him to insert screws or other devices in exactly the correct location and ensuring an optimal recovery for the patient.
Artificial disc implantation: Discs that are worn out or injured can cause significant pain and can limit mobility. Patients with degenerative disc disease in the lumbar spine may benefit from the insertion of an artificial disc, which may be made of metal or plastic-like material. The surgeon first removes the injured disc, and then inserts the artificial disc (which is sandwiched between two plates) in between the two affected vertebrae.
Spinal fusion: Some patients suffering from arthritis in the spine or other disorders require spinal fusion: the surgical union of two neighboring vertebrae (most often in the neck or lower back) to reduce motion and limit pain and instability between them. Spinal fusion is a treatment option for correction of deformities; instability; spinal pain; and some disc herniations. Similar to "welding," the surgeon implants natural or synthetic bone grafting material to "glue" two vertebrae together. The surgeon usually also inserts hardware, such as plates, screws, or cages, to hold the bones in place while the graft heals. At the Weill Cornell Spine Center, we offer a minimally invasive approach called XLIF®. And through a procedure called AxiaLIF®, the surgeon uses a minimally invasive approach to remove the nucleus (center) of a diseased disc, replaces it with bone growth material, restores normal disc height, and then stabilizes the spine with a rod and screws.
Motion preservation without spinal fusion: Our surgeons are sometimes able to treat spinal instability with specific hardware without having to surgically fuse vertebrae. This approach relieves pain while preserving a patient's range of motion.
Minimally invasive decompression for spinal stenosis: We offer minimally invasive procedures that can be performed under local anesthesia for the treatment of lumbar spinal stenosis. Using the interspinous spacer technology with the X-STOP® titanium device a small implant can be inserted between two vertebrae that are compressing the nerves, restoring the space between them and preventing the nerves in the area from becoming pinched and causing pain. The MILD procedure allows to decompress lumbar spinal stenosis effectively through two tiny incisions under local anesthesia.
Vertebral augmentation using vertebroplasty/kyphoplasty: In patients with fractures due to trauma, osteoporosis, or some tumors, we use a procedure called balloon kyphoplasty. The surgeon inserts a tiny balloon into a fractured vertebra, inflates it to create a space, removes the balloon, and fills the space with bone cement to restore height to the vertebra and repair the fracture. This approach results in instant pain relief. Similar results are obtained using vertebroplasty.
Sports injuries of the spine: We are experts in the treatment of sports injuries to the spine. In fact, our Chief of Spine Surgery, Roger Härtl, MD, is the neurosurgeon for the New York Giants professional football team. We utilize the full range of approaches to the management of spinal disorders when evaluating and treating spinal injuries incurred during sports activities, including treatment of vertebral fractures and stabilization of the spinal column.
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