The world of spine surgery is one of rapid growth and controlled chaos. The field is rich with discursive topics both specific to the field and emblematic of broader healthcare trends — minimally invasive surgery and innovation's relationship to pricing are two pieces of the complex, evolving healthcare sphere of spinal surgery.
At Becker's 14th Annual Spine, Orthopedic & Pain Management-Driven ASC Conference + The Future of Spine in Chicago on June 9, panelists Vladimir Sinkov, MD, orthopedic spine surgeon with New Hampshire Orthopaedic Center in Nashua; Michael Hasz, MD, orthopedic spine surgeon with Virginia Spine Institute in Reston; Michael Butler, president and CEO of Life Spine, headquartered in Huntley, Ill.; and Jason Blain, president of Spinal Elements, headquartered in Carlsbad, Calif.; participated in a lively discussion regarding issues pertaining to the current development and future of spine surgery medical devices.
The topic hit on first and returned to often was the growing development and demand for minimally invasive spine surgery.
"Probably the biggest emerging trend — I'm not sure you can even call it emerging anymore — is minimally invasive surgery," said Dr. Sinkov. "This is becoming more of a routine procedure and less of a scary procedure, because we can do so much more without having to do collateral damage to the surrounding tissue."
There was some semantic debate regarding the term "minimally invasive." Dr. Hasz took issue with the imprecise parameters of the medical idiom, citing his preference to use specific referents for different procedures. He did, however, acknowledge the term's use as necessary so that the panelists and experts could conduct a conversation surrounding the matter.
MIS-supporting research has enhanced the technique's reputation, with benefits including:
• Less pain
• Lower infection and complication rate
• Less blood loss: According to a recent Spine study, patients undergoing minimally invasive fusions experienced lower blood loss (88.7 percent lower) than the open procedure group.
• Shorter hospital stays: The hospital stays among the minimally invasive group were 64 percent shorter than hospital stays in the open procedure group, according to a Spine study.
• Quicker recovery
Though these minimally invasive procedures are not always appropriate when treating certain neck and back issues, there is a growing patient demand for the procedures and a growing fiscal need for device companies to produce equipment that can meet said demands.
"As the market tells us we need to be less invasive with treatments and figure out solutions, we will respond and do that," said Mr. Blain.
The topic of device innovation was also hotly discussed by both panelists and audience members. The continuum of care across the board is using procedural information to create standardization — this impacts medical device pricing. This issue becomes particularly thorny when considering medical devices for spinal surgery, which is complicated by nature.
"What's interesting about spine is chaos, that's what makes it fun," said Mr. Butler. "But we really don't have any data ... And that's one of the things we're investing in doing is getting data about the outcomes of our procedures to fight for better pricing ... There's a difference in innovation between revolutionary and evolutionary. Most of our innovation right now is evolutionary because that gets funded."
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