10 surgeons performing awake spine surgery

Alan Condon -  

Awake spine surgery is an approach to procedures that uses a local anesthetic to let surgeons examine a patient's neurologic condition during surgery, rather than general anesthesia, which involves intubation.

According to surgeons who perform awake spine surgery, the benefits for patients include quicker recoveries, improved pain control and reduced postoperative nausea. It also eliminates the need to use intravenous narcotics and reduces the cost of stay.

Commonly performed awake spine surgeries include laminectomy/discectomy, anterior cervical discectomy and fusion, lumbar fusion and implantations of spinal cord stimulators.

Here are 10 surgeons performing awake spine surgery:

To add a surgeon to this list, contact Alan Condon at acondon@beckershealthcare.com.

1. Alok Sharan, MD. NJ Spine and Wellness (East Brunswick, N.J.). Dr. Sharan is among the earliest adopters of awake spine surgery and serves as director of spine and orthopedics at NJ Spine and Wellness as well as deputy editor for Clinical Spine Surgery. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he established the online learning platform doc.social, which has launched an awake spine surgery course.

2. Vijay Yanamadala, MD. Hartford (Conn.) HealthCare. On Oct. 1, Dr. Yanamadala became the first surgeon to perform an awake spinal fusion in New England. He is system medical director of spinal quality and surgical optimization and director of spinal deformity surgery at Hartford HealthCare.

3. Ernest Braxton, MD. Vail (Colo.) Summit Orthopaedics and Neurosurgery. In February 2022, Dr. Braxton performed the first awake robot-assisted transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion in Colorado. The first awake spinal fusion he performed was in 2016. Five years ago, Dr. Braxton left his post as chief of neurosurgery at San Antonio Military Medical Center to join Vail Summit Orthopaedics and Neurosurgery.

4. Muhammad Abd-El-Barr, MD, PhD. Duke Spine Center (Durham, N.C. ). Dr. Abd-El-Barr is the first to offer awake spinal fusion to patients at Duke. In November 2019, he performed his first awake spine surgery with a robot, coining the procedure "awake spinal anesthetic robotic lumbar fusion."

5. Praveen Mummaneni, MD. UCSF Health (San Francisco). Dr. Mummaneni began performing awake spine surgery in 2018. He is co-director of the UCSF Spine Center, where awake surgery is available for one- or two-level lumbar procedures for decompression and fusion to treat stenosis and spondylolisthesis.

6. Raymond Gardocki, MD. Vanderbilt Health (Nashville, Tenn.). Dr. Gardocki specializes in minimally invasive, endoscopic and awake spine surgery. In 2020, he left his post at Campbell Clinic in Memphis, Tenn., to join Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where he is developing an endoscopic spine surgery program.

7. Paul Houle, MD. Cape Cod Healthcare Neurosurgery (Hyannis, Mass.). Dr. Houle has served as chief of neurosurgery at Cape Cod Healthcare since 2010. He specializes in minimally invasive, awake and endoscopic spine surgery. In 2016, he became the first surgeon in Massachusetts to perform an awake transforaminal endoscopic discectomy.

8. Kingsley Abode-Iyamah, MD. Mayo Clinic (Jacksonville, Fla.). In February, Dr. Abode-Iyamah became the first in Florida to perform a robotic-assisted awake spinal fusion. In 2019, he left his post as staff neurosurgeon at Orlando (Fla.) Health to join Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic, where he specializes in the treatment of complex spinal deformity.

9. Dr. Murtuza Sikander. John Radcliffe Hospital (Oxford, England). Dr. Sikander and anesthesiologist Dr. Helen Hann began offering awake spine surgery in England in 2021 after consulting with Dr. Sharan. Drs. Sikander and Hann have performed several awake lumbar decompressions and plans to offer awake spinal fusions and endoscopic surgeries in the future.

10. Dr. Georgios Bakaloudis. Humanitas San Pio X (Milan, Italy). Dr. Bakaloudis is an Italian spine surgeon offering awake spine surgery and has connected with several U.S.-based surgeons offering this technique. In the last six years, he has performed more than 500 awake spine surgery cases, according to his website.

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