Spine surgery benefits from an upgrade


Although the physicians at the Emerson Spine Program em­phasize conservative treatment, there are situations where sur­gery is necessary — sometimes, immediately. When back or neck pain is accompanied by muscle weakness or arm or leg pain, it may indicate nerve damage. If left untreated, the damaged nerve can potentially result in permanent muscle weakness.

“We try to avoid performing surgery unless it is absolutely necessary,” says Dr. Robert Whitmore, a neurosurgeon who works closely with Dr. Arthur Lee, chief of physical medicine and rehabilitation, and Dr. James Spinelli, an interventional physiatrist with the Emerson Spine Program. “They are both very good at recognizing who will benefit from surgery and getting the patient to me as soon as possible.”

The surgical technology that Dr. Whitmore uses was recently upgraded to include a state-of-the-art operating microscope. “Our new microscope provides a higher degree of safety and superior resolution,” he ex­plains, “and it facilitates our ability to perform minimally invasive surgery.”

Also, Dr. Whitmore is now accompanied by a technician who conducts neuro-monitor­ing during certain spine cases. “The technician monitors the patient’s spinal cord and nerves throughout surgery,” he says. “With these two up­grades, our capabilities at Emerson are comparable with those at major institutions. We can perform spine surgery with a higher degree of safety using smaller and minimally invasive incisions.”

Patients are often surprised to learn that they can head home the same day they had spine surgery. “This is true in the vast majority of cases,” notes Dr. Whitmore. “It is because we make such small incisions and are able to successfully manage post-surgical pain. Today spine surgery is much easier on patients than it used to be.”

For more information on the Emerson Spine Program, call 978-287-3194 or visit the spine surgery page on our website.