New Spine Surgery Relieves Pain February 10, 2010

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Austin neurosurgeon John Stokes, MD, of Seton Spine and Scoliosis used a new surgical technique on a 62-year-old woman suffering from a herniated disc to relieve her excruciating leg pain which she said affected all aspects of her life. Kathy Johnson suffered from a herniated disc, a condition that occurs when the cushion between the spinal vertebra is pushed outside of its normal location where it presses on nerves, causing sometimes unbearable back and leg pain or numbness and weakness for many millions of Americans.

"It was the worst pain I've ever experienced. I wasn't able to stand for more than a minute or two," says Johnson. "Right after the procedure I was a little sore, but the shooting leg pain was gone and my weakness began to resolve."

As recently as only 10 years ago, major back surgery such as Kathy's required at least a week-long hospital stay and possibly as long as a year before a person could return fully to normal activities. For many patients, that experienced has been shortened and improved through constant new developments in minimally invasive surgery that reduces the tissue damage to the muscular and bony structures in the back and the amount of scarring necessary to obtain relief.

The YESS Procedure

The YESS procedure is a minimally-invasive spinal procedure designed to relieve symptoms caused by herniated discs pressing on nerves. It employs the Yeung Endoscopic Spine Surgery (YESS) System designed specifically to allow the surgeon to see anatomical structures and pathological changes with great clarity and an unhindered view.

With the patient awake, Dr. Stokes made a 1/4- inch incision several inches away from the midline of the back and inserted a camera (endoscope) to view the affected area.

Through the endoscope, he then used tiny instruments to remove only the affected, bulging part of the disc that was causing the pain, numbness and weakness. The rest of the spine, including the bones and ligaments, remained intact allowing for a faster recovery.

"The YESS procedure allows me to go around the spinal column instead of going through it to remove the diseased disc," explains Dr. Stokes. "This less invasive and targeted approach prevents me from removing bone or disrupting ligaments. The herniated portion of the disc is simply removed with a combination of grasping instruments, laser and cautery. This speeds up the patient's recovery after the procedure."

The YESS procedure is performed using only sedation and a local anesthetic and does not require a hospital stay. Patients typically need a day of rest and most return to normal activity within one to six weeks.

For More Information's online health encyclopedia has more information on herniated discs. If you are considering surgery, be sure to discuss newer less-invasive procedures that might be appropriate for your care with your doctor.

John K. Stokes, MD

Spine Surgeon
Co-Chief, Seton Spine and Scoliosis Center

Seton Spine and Scoliosis Center
1600 West 38th Street, Suite 200

Dr. Stokes is a board certified neurosurgeon, fellowship trained in spinal surgery with a practice entirely focused on spinal surgery. He has been in practice in Austin for more than seven years and has performed thousands of spinal procedures. His practice serves as a referral center for complex spinal problems for the region.

He completed undergraduate training at the University of Texas-Austin in 1992 adding to a long family history of Longhorn graduates. Dr. Stokes subsequently obtained his medical degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio in 1995. He then completed Neurosurgical residency training at the University of North Carolina Hospitals and Clinics in Chapel Hill, NC. During six years of intense Neurosurgical training, he developed a keen interest in Spinal Neurosurgery prompting advanced fellowship training at the Cedars Sinai Institute for Spinal Disorders in Los Angeles, CA and UCLA ending in 2002.

He obtained Board Certification by the American Board of Neurological Surgery in 2005 and is a member of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and the Congress of Neurological Surgeons. He was named as Co-Chief of the Seton Spine & Scoliosis Center in November 2009.

Dr. Stokes has published numerous scientific articles in peer reviewed journals and has authored book chapters relevant to spinal surgery. In addition, he has given presentations at scientific meetings around the country. Dr. Stokes was a principal investigator in a FDA IDE (investigational device exemption) study of the Mobi-C artificial cervical disc. He also collaborates with several medical device manufacturers in the development of new spinal technologies.

About the Seton Brain & Spine Institute

The Seton Brain and Spine Institute, a member of the Seton Family of Hospitals, offers a variety of programs to help patients with disorders of the brain and spine. These programs include stroke, epilepsy, tumors, aneurysms and vascular malformations, spasticity and movement disorders, head injuries, spinal disorders and scoliosis.

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