Spine surgery in one form or another has been performed for more than 5,000 years. Yet there’s no denying the type of spine-related procedures performed today are much more advanced and safer for patients than those done centuries ago, when there wasn’t a full understanding of internal anatomy and the complex nature of the human spine. However, there are some interesting trends that suggest what may be coming in the future with spine surgery.
The number of older Americans is on the rise and expected to become even greater. Part of the reason for this trend is because of aging baby boomers—referring to people born between the mid-1940s and the mid-1960s. There are currently nearly 75 million Americans within this group. By 2030, these individuals will be between 65 and 85 years old.
With the advent of advanced procedures such as spinal fusion alternatives, Santa Monica
patients within this group may increasingly seek surgical remedies for spine-related pain that’s not going away. Even if surgery isn’t in the cards, many boomers will likely explore their options with conservative care to manage symptoms, which means spine specialists and physical therapists will likely be very busy for many years to come.
As data collection methods continue to improve, so will the ability to use this patient information to put together treatment plans that are more individualized. Instead of a trial-and-error process with treatments, there may come a time when a treatment plan can be put together within a matter of minutes based on factors such as:
• Family history • Previous health-related issues • Treatments already attempted and the results of those efforts
Telemedicine refers to remote access to medical care via electronic means such as desktop computers, phones, laptops, and tablets. There are already instances of telemedicine being used to provide access to health-related guidance for patients in areas where it’s difficult for individuals to physically get to medical facilities.
In the not-so-distant future, you may be able to check in with a spine specialist via your phone or laptop so your condition can be monitored. A remote consultation could also streamline access to medications or allow a doctor to see how you’re progressing with your recovery.
There will still be a need for in-person visits for physical examinations and other procedures that are best done face to face. This is also true for more advanced diagnostic testing. However, there may be some patient data that can be collected and transmitted electronically to speed up the initial diagnostic process.
Robotic spine surgery is already a reality. However, it’s not something that’s considered affordable or widely accessible, but that may change in the future as what’s actually robot-guided surgery becomes available to more patients at a lower cost. Performed under the guidance of a human surgeon, this approach to surgery can benefit patients by:
• Maneuvering into areas where human hands can’t reach effectively and safely • Improving the placement of spinal hardware • Eliminating human errors, such as accidental nerve damage
There’s no way to predict with absolute certainty what the future may hold for spine surgery innovations and trends. If spine surgery may be in your near future, take comfort in knowing that less invasive techniques are becoming increasingly common and accessible to patients, and they can be especially beneficial when performed by an experienced minimally invasive spine surgeon. Santa Monica patients appreciate minimally invasive spine surgery because it often results in reduced surgical risks and shorter recovery times.
The pioneering spine specialists at The Spine Institute are at the forefront of spine surgery’s future with their innovative methods and state-of-the-art treatment techniques. If you’re experiencing spine pain, make sure to see one of our spinal health specialists right away for diagnosis and treatment. Schedule an appointment today by calling us at 310-828-7757.