'The future is bright for our patients': Spine surgeons excited about the evolution of their specialty

Alan Condon -  

From innovations in minimally invasive spine surgery to improved hardware and an increased onus on physician independence, five surgeons told Becker's what most excites them in their specialty.

Thomas Schuler, MD. Virginia Spine Institute (Reston): I am most excited about the amazing treatment opportunities we have in 2022 to improve our patients' lives. I have been practicing for 30 years, and today's technology and treatment options enable modern spine specialists to work medical miracles on our patients daily. Quality rehabilitation, precision pain management techniques, regenerative medicine, low-profile segmental spinal fixation, robotic spine surgery, cervical and lumbar motion preservation and minimally invasive techniques all are epic gains that have transformed our field over the past 30 years. The future is bright for our patients. I have medically benefited from these epic gains as a spine patient myself. My life is better for it and so are my patients' lives. We are blessed to live in this era of incredible spinal treatments.

Adam Bruggeman, MD. Texas Spine Care Center (San Antonio): I work with a group where we are trying to help practices remain or go back to being independent through a clinically integrated network. This push toward employment and loss of control of the practice has had a significant detrimental impact on the delivery of healthcare. With nearly three of every four physicians employed today, I see a pendulum swing back toward physician independence. I am excited to see the migration back to independent practices. Companies designed around this concept stand to see significant growth.

Vivek Mohan, MD. The Orthopedic Spine Institute (Hoffman Estates, Ill.): I am excited to see an increase in independent practitioners and small groups, though it is still a small percentage. I feel this will be a growing trend as hospitals and large organizations cannot quickly adapt to a rapidly changing healthcare environment while trying to accommodate physicians' and nurses' professional and lifestyle goals.

Todd Lansford, MD. South Carolina Sports Medicine (Charleston): I am most excited about continued technological advancements in the world of spine surgery. This includes new innovations in hardware with improved titanium expandable cages. As cages are better designed, they allow for more reproducible outcomes and improved patient quality of life. The new innovations also include biologics and pharmacology. We better understand what biologics are needed for fusion, especially with better hardware. Furthermore, we can better manage post-op patients with improved injectables and non-narcotic treatment paradigms. All of these advancements lead to improved patient outcomes, especially in surgical centers. 

Thomas Scully, MD. Northwest NeuroSpecialists (Tucson, Ariz.): I am excited to see the future. Many are seeing a bleak time ahead. But, we have a daughter who is an ICU nurse, and our son is in medical school. Knowing their dedication and work ethic allows me to see the future in their generation's hands in a better light.

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