The effect of baby boomers on the evolving patient population in spine: Q+A with Dr. Camden Burns

Alan Condon -  

Camden Burns, MD, is a spine surgeon at Indiana University Health in Indianapolis and an assistant professor in the department of orthopedic surgery at Indiana University School of Medicine. 

Dr. Burns weighs in on emerging trends in spine and how his patient population is evolving.

Note: Responses were lightly edited for style and clarity

Question: How has your patient population changed over the past five years? How do you expect it to evolve in the future?

Dr. Camden Burns: As the baby boomer generation continues to age, we see an older population with an increased incidence of osteopenia and osteoporosis. This is significant to all areas of spine surgery and to orthopedics in general. It is becoming more essential that spine surgeons and orthopedic surgeons initiate treatment for osteoporosis to improve bone quality in patients needing surgery and decrease their risk of osteoporotic fractures.

We have also seen increased incidences of patients seeking minimally invasive options. These treatments have certainly evolved in recent years and are very attractive for patients looking for smaller incisions, less pain and shorter hospital stays. We expect this aspect of our practices to continue to grow.

Q: What is one program your practice has implemented that you're particularly proud of, and why?

CB: In addition to the increased focus on osteoporosis management and minimally invasive surgery, we have increased our focus on pre- and postoperative pain management through a multimodal approach. This includes different therapies and medications, many non-narcotics, that will help control pain from all facets and also decrease the amount of narcotics a patient requires and therefore decrease the risk of complications and addiction.

Q: What technology do you see having the biggest impact on spine patient care?

CB: Robotic surgery is becoming more and more common across many surgical specialties. Although it is newer to spine than other specialties such as bariatrics and urology, it is advancing fast and is already adopted as a form of computer-assisted navigation in many spine practices.  

Q: How do you see outpatient spine procedures developing in the future?

CB: With improvements in pain control and developing minimally invasive surgery techniques (resulting in decreased dissection, less blood loss, smaller incisions, and less surgical time), spinal decompression and fusion surgeries are already being performed on an outpatient basis. As these areas continue to evolve, the indications for outpatient spine surgery will do so as well.

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