Spine Surgery Pioneers: Inova Spine Program Surgeons Teach New Techniques to International Visitors

Ronald C. Childs, MD, is a board certified orthopaedic spine surgeon and medical co-director of the Inova Spine Program at Inova Fairfax Hospital.

Spinal fusion is a common surgical procedure to treat spine pain and instability by fusing together the painful vertebrae that have degenerated or are unstable. The procedure has been around for decades, and can be done using several techniques.

At the Inova Spine Program, we’re always looking for ways to make this and other spinal surgeries safer, easier and more effective. Over the years, I helped develop a new minimally invasive technique for fusing the lumbar (lower) spine. This innovative approach takes less time than traditional methods, requires a shorter hospital stay and allows patients to recover more quickly.

We’re excited about this advancement in spine surgery, and want to make it an option for as many patients as possible. That’s why doctors from around the world are invited to observe the procedure. In recent months, we’ve hosted surgeons from other states as well as from countries such as Singapore, England and Germany.

Taking Sides

Traditionally, in a procedure known as lateral access surgery, surgeons place patients on their side to access the front of the spine. Then they turn patients onto their stomachs to reach the back of the spine.

With my approach, we complete the entire procedure, front and back, with the patient lying on his or her side. That reduces the amount of time spent in surgery and lowers the risk of infection, while still allowing us to fuse the front and back of the spine.

We’ve found that patients who have this procedure do as well or better than patients who undergo the traditional approach to spinal fusion. But the technique takes some getting used to. As a training center, we welcome surgeons from other hospitals to observe the procedure. Our hope is that they adopt the technique to help more patients around the world.

Back Pain Solutions

Hosting medical observers gives us a wonderful opportunity to exchange ideas with surgeons from all over the globe. And preparing to lead these demonstrations helps my colleagues and I keep our skills sharp.

At Inova, we take a personalized approach to treating back pain. Some patients might do best with rehabilitation or physical therapy. Others will benefit from surgery. Our goal is to find the most effective solution for each unique patient.

If you have chronic back or neck pain or have suffered a spinal injury, learn more about the Inova Spine Program at the Inova Neuroscience and Spine Institute, or call 703-776-4700 to schedule an appointment.


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