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Meet Our Doctors

The Spine Institute: Santa Monica’s Top Spine Surgeons

Up to 80 percent of the population will experience back pain at some point in their lives. For many, the pain is minor and easily treated through methods such as exercise, physical therapy, and medications. However, for others, the pain may become chronic and significantly affect quality of life. In these instances, it may be beneficial to consider the option of spine surgery. Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and Beverly Hills residents who are living with pain in the back or neck will be pleased to know that the experienced surgeons at The Spine Institute can help.

Chronic spine pain affects everyone differently. Some people are unable to exercise or play the sports they love, while others find it difficult to work at a desk for a prolonged period without experiencing discomfort. With the help of Medical Director Dr. Hyun Bae and the rest of the qualified surgeons at The Spine Institute, patients can look forward to participating in their favorite daily activities once again, maintaining a healthy spine, and enjoying a high quality of life.

At The Spine Institute, our team of trusted professional spine specialists are focused on revolutionizing spinal surgery and other cutting edge treatments for chronic spine pain, and they’ve been instrumental in advancing the many innovations related to spinal fusion, minimally invasive spine surgery, and fusion alternatives over the last 15 years. When receiving an in-person evaluation at The Spine Institute, you’ll meet with one of our board-certified Santa Monica spine surgeons, and together you’ll discuss a variety of options for alleviating your pain. We believe it’s crucial for patients to ask any questions they might have about their spinal health and to be honest when it comes to medical concerns, as this helps us determine the best course of action for treatment.

Dr. Bae and the rest of the dedicated Los Angeles spine surgeons at The Spine Institute specialize in minimally invasive spinal procedures, which are often effective in treating a wide array of conditions, including herniated discs, scoliosis, and spinal stenosis. Oftentimes, when undergoing certain procedures, patients are able to walk and return home the same day as the surgery, ready to begin recovery. Even when recovery lasts a few weeks, patients who opt for a minimally invasive procedure tend to experience positive results. There are many benefits to minimally invasive surgery, including:

  • Shorter operative time
  • Reduced hospital stay
  • Less pain and scarring
  • Quicker recovery

Fusion Procedures We Perform

Though conservative options are always explored before surgery, some patients may need to undergo some form of spinal fusion to find the relief they need and deserve. Some of these surgical options include:

Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF) – Removes a herniated or degenerative disc in the neck. Once removed, a bone graft is fixed in place with metal plates and screws, which fuses the bones above and below the disc space, eventually forming one solid bone. Recovery typically takes between 4 and 6 weeks, but in some cases it could take up to 18 months before the fusion is fully formed.

Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF) – Treats lower back pain for degenerative spinal conditions, often when multiple discs need to be removed or multiple levels of the spine require fusion. A metal, plastic, or bone spacer is inserted into the disc space to maintain normal disc height and help the vertebrae fuse together so they can heal into a single bone. Most patients can return home 3 to 4 days after surgery, with minimal bending, lifting, and twisting for the first 2 to 4 weeks.

Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF) – Restores disc height and permanently fuses vertebrae that have been displaced or damaged. Conditions such as degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis, and recurrent herniations often require TLIF to alleviate the pain. The damaged disc is partially removed, then an implant is inserted to restore normal disc height. Patients typically need to remain in the hospital for 3 to 4 days following the procedure, and bending, twisting, and lifting should be limited for approximately 6 weeks after going home.

Extreme Lateral Interbody Fusion (XLIF)–Reduces long-term back or neck pain resulting from degenerative disc disease. The damaged disc is removed, then replaced with an implant filled with bone graft, which realigns the vertebral bones and lifts pressure from pinched nerve roots. In most cases, patients can begin walking again the evening of surgery and are discharged the same day.

Decompression Surgery

For some cases of chronic back pain, muscle weakness, and numbness in the arms and legs, a decompression surgery may be performed. The various types of decompression used at The Spine Institute include:

Laminectomy–Relieves pressure on the spinal cord or nerves, caused by a narrowing of the open spaces within the spine that often results from issues such as tumors, arthritis, herniated or slipped discs, or congenital defects. The lamina, which is the back part of the vertebra covering the spinal canal, is removed to open up the spinal canal. While some patients may be able to return home the same day of surgery, others may require a brief hospital stay to heal safely.

Kyphoplasty–Treats spinal compression fractures that are most commonly caused by osteoporosis and result in severe pain. Using a needle placed through a small incision in the skin, a balloon is inflated with either acrylic or bone cement, which stabilizes the fracture and restores the vertebra to its original height and shape. Kyphoplasty is typically an outpatient procedure. However, regular activities should be resumed slowly following the initial 24-hour healing period to avoid strain.

Foraminotomy–Enlarges the passageway where the nerve roots leave the spinal canal, which takes pressure off the nerves and allows for easier spine movement. Bone is cut or shaved away to open the nerve root, and disc fragments blocking the passageway are removed to minimize inflammation. Depending on the extent of the damage being treated, patients may be able to get out of bed within two hours following the surgery, and it’s not uncommon to return home the same day.

Vertebroplasty – Stabilizes compression fractures in the spine. A specially formulated acrylic bone cement is injected into the fracture. Once the cement hardens, the affected vertebra is stabilized. Most patients undergoing a vertebroplasty are treated as outpatients and only require bed rest for the first 24 hours following the procedure.

Fusion Alternatives to Choose From

Even though the spinal fusion procedures performed at The Spine Institute are considered minimally invasive, there are some non-fusion options that are even less invasive. In most cases, these fusion alternatives result in shorter hospital stays, less pain and muscle damage, and increased mobility immediately following surgery. Some of the most common fusion alternatives include:

Spinal Cord Stimulation – Uses an electrical current to treat chronic back pain. Soft, thin wires with electrical leads on their tips are inserted into the epidural space surrounding the spine. The electrical pulses sent to the spinal cord interfere with nerve impulses and block the brain’s ability to sense pain in this area. After a week, if the spinal cord stimulation was successful in reducing the patient’s pain, the temporary leads will be replaced with permanent ones, and a pulse generator will also be placed under the skin in the upper abdomen. The generator is connected to an external wireless programmer, allowing the patient to control the power. Spinal cord stimulation is an outpatient procedure, and most patients are able to return to their normal activities within a few days, though pain may continue anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks as the tissues around the implant heal.

Cervical Artificial Disc Replacement – Relieves pain caused by pinched nerves due to a damaged disc in the cervical spine. The affected disc is removed and replaced with an implant that preserves motion in the neck. Most patients will need to remain at the hospital for observation for a day or two. However, they’ll be able to walk within a few hours. Activity restrictions tend to be minor upon returning home.

Lumbar Artificial Disc Replacement–Removes a damaged or diseased disc in the lower part of the spine, replacing it with an artificial implant. Performed through an incision in the abdomen, the affected disc is removed, then the disc space is heightened to take pressure off nerves and allow plenty of room for the implant. Typically, patients will need to stay at the hospital between 2 to 4 days after surgery. Though some immediate pain relief may occur, there should be gradual improvements over the next few weeks/months.

Dynamic Stabilization – Treats intolerable lower back pain associated with degenerative disc disease. Instead of bone grafts and screws to fuse the vertebrae together, dynamic stabilization uses flexible prosthetic materials that allow for greater support and controlled motion. Patients are often able to return home the same day of the procedure, though some may need to stay a day or two for observation. Depending on overall health and the healing process, most patients can return to their normal routines within 6 weeks.

Mobi-C Artificial Disc Replacement –Minimizes pain and symptoms associated with diseased or bulging cervical discs. During an artificial disc replacement procedure, a Mobi-C prosthetic disc replaces the diseased disc and allows for neutral motion between the vertebrae.

Coflex Interlaminar Stabilization – Restores mobility and relieves back pain caused by spinal stenosis. Coflex is a flexible titanium alloy device inserted between two vertebrae during a decompression procedure, which restores the narrow space caused by a collapsed disc or compressed nerve.

Non-Surgical Treatments

When living with chronic back or neck pain, minimally invasive surgery isn’t the only solution. Sometimes, there are completely non-invasive techniques that can successfully alleviate pain, and this depends on an individual’s lifestyle habits, goals, and severity of pain. At the Spine Institute, our highly trained Beverly Hills spine surgeons may recommend conservative treatments such as physical therapy, acupuncture, or medications before suggesting spinal fusion or a fusion alternative.

About Dr. Hyun Bae

Dr. Bae has revolutionized spine surgery through his use of state-of-the-art medical devices and innovative techniques. Both his education and expertise are extensive. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in biomechanics from the Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science, Dr. Bae graduated cum laude from Yale University School of Medicine, then completed a surgical internship at North Shore University Hospital, an orthopedic surgical residency at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, and a spine fellowship at Case Western Reserve Hospital in Cleveland.

In 2014, the National Institutes of Health awarded a $2.8 million grant to Dr. Bae, which was intended to aid in the development of a revolutionary imaging technique to diagnose back and neck pain. The following year, Dr. Bae was named Safest Spine Surgeon in Greater Los Angeles in Orthopedics This Week, and he also received a North American Spine Society Grant. He is the recipient of the 2016 Spine Surgeon Leadership Award and has been named on the Super Doctors list, which is very exclusive, only featuring 5 percent of the spine surgery experts in a given region. His successes with artificial disc replacement and innovation in minimally invasive spine surgery have helped thousands of patients relieve their pain and maintain a normal lifestyle. Dr. Bae is also a professor of surgery at Cedars-Sinai Spine Center and has focused his current research on using stem cells to regenerate nerve tissue to treat spinal cord injuries.

If you’re living with chronic spine pain and are interested in learning more about your options for surgery or other alternatives for alleviating your pain, turn to Dr. Hyun Bae and his trusted team of Santa Monica spine surgeons at The Spine Institute. Call 310-828-7757 today to schedule an in-person evaluation.

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