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New Technologies Improve Safety Of Spine Surgery

Dr. William Sonstein Minimizes Possibility Of Complications, Using Devices That Prevent Soft Tissue Damage, Reduce Blood Loss

ROCKVILLE, CENTRE, N.Y. – According to leading spine neurosurgeon William J. Sonstein, M.D., F.A.C.S., all else being equal, two critical factors in how well a spinal surgery goes are the surgeon’s ability to control bleeding and the prevention of spinal fluid leakage.  Dr. Sonstein is among the early adopters of two new technologies that address these potential complications and make spine surgery safer for his patients.

“I have seen many new devices in my 20 years as a surgeon, but these two technologies have really revolutionized spine surgery,” says Dr. Sonstein.  “They give the surgeon much more control and dramatically increase patient safety. They have changed the course of doing spine surgery.”

The first new technology is a type of ultrasonic bone emulsification device, which “melts” bone in the spine around the surgical site and reduces the likelihood of spinal fluid leakage and soft tissue damage. The second device uses a unique technology known as “transcollation,” which combines radiofrequency energy and saline to deliver heat to soft tissue surrounding the spinal cord, seal off blood vessels, and reduce the necessity for transfusion.  There are now a number of ultrasonic bone emulsification devices available. One device for hemostatic sealing is currently available:  the Aquamantys System, made by Medtronic.

Dr. Sonstein is a senior partner in Neurological Surgery, P.C. — a private practice of leading neurosurgeons – as well as Chief of Neurosurgery at North Shore-LIJ Hospital at Plainview (NY) and Co-Chief of Neurosurgery at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Bethpage, NY.  He operates together with orthopedic spine surgeon Richard S. Obedian, M.D., F.A.A.O.S., drawing on the complementary strengths each has gained from his sub-specialty fellowship training.  Dr. Obedian is Chief of Spine Service at North Shore-LIJ Hospital at Plainview.

The two surgeons use these new technologies in every lumbar (lower spine) and posterior cervical (upper spine, operated on from the rear of the neck) open surgery that they perform.

The ultrasonic devices soften (emulsify) bone near the area to be operated on, with metal tips that gently vibrate in two directions, while also removing fine bone.  These handheld devices simultaneously aspirate (remove fluid) and irrigate the surgical field.  They can be set so that they spare soft tissue, allowing the surgeon to literally “sculpt” the bone around the nerves, minimizing the fear of a spinal fluid leak, which can cause serious health problems including spinal infection.  Minimal pressure is needed to gently retract eloquent (functional) structures as bone is removed around them.

“This gives the surgeon an unprecedented amount of control, and avoids the necessity of using tools such as biting instruments and high speed drills, which can damage soft tissue,” said Dr. Sonstein. “Damage to soft tissue surrounding the spine may lead to complications, slower recovery from surgery and more post-surgical pain.”

The Aquamantys device uses controlled thermal energy to seal blood vessels without burning them, as can happen with traditional cauterization devices.  The shape of the device’s tips also allows use in a larger area than with older technologies. Studies have shown that the device reduces transfusion rates, improves the surgeon’s visibility, and decreases surgical time – all of which add up to increased safety for the patient.

Dr. Sonstein says that the Aquamantys device is especially useful in revision (second) spine surgeries, because scar tissue often forms around the site of initial surgery.  This tissue is often full of blood vessels, increasing the chances of blood loss, which is minimized with the new device.

“I am extremely pleased to offer these two technological advances to my patients,” says Dr. Sonstein.  “They afford the safest conditions required for spinal surgery.”

To learn more about Dr Sonstein and spine surgeries visit our Ultrasonic Spine Institute.

For more information, call 1-800-775-7784.

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