Neurosurgery is the medical specialization of treating diseases and disorders of the nervous system, especially the brain and spinal cord. Neurosurgery has been practiced throughout human history, but the most important neurosurgery breakthroughs have only come about in the last century. These changes continue to make neurosurgery safer and patient recovery time shorter.
Over the last few decades, surgeons have learned so much about how the back and the brain work together. Along with medical researchers, scientists and engineers, physicians have made immense advances in surgical procedures. Surgery used to be extremely long, invasive and painful. But today, at the Southeastern Spine Institute (SSI), you can be in and out of surgery in just one day!
The Southeastern Spine Institute is dedicated to keeping up with the latest breakthroughs to improve the practice and your relief. Here is some background on how these techniques have developed.
Body Imaging Technology in the 1960s and 70s
NASA’s space technology did amazing things for aeronautics (it put a man on the moon), but it also benefitted the medical community, particularly when it comes to neuroimaging. The digital signal-processing technology that NASA pioneered for their Apollo Lunar landings was also used to develop the CT scanner, MRI and operating room microscopes.
This advanced body imaging software was a huge neurosurgery breakthrough. The technology is fast, painless, noninvasive, accurate and most importantly, lifesaving. It enables doctors to use X-rays to see detailed pictures of parts of the body, injuries and internal bleeding. This allows surgery to be performed through tiny incisions, making it less invasive.
Additionally, during the 60s, bone morphogenetic proteins were discovered. These chemicals stimulate bones to fuse, which lead to the idea of bone grafting and fusion. Now a common practice, these techniques join two vertebrae using bone grafting along with screws, plates and cages to help the bones heal together.
Neurosurgery Breakthroughs in the 1980s and 90s
The effectiveness and availability of neurosurgery expanded in these two decades. It was a time of refining instruments and practices. As technology continued to progress, it offered a better understanding of the inner workings of the body. It was finally possible for surgeons to see all the many intricacies of the spine. This helped them to really specialize by reviewing their techniques to make them faster and less painful.
Since then, neurologists have developed many notable options for treatment. Some of the biggest neurosurgery breakthroughs so far are the intraoperative MRI for brain tumors, 3D reconstruction for brain tumor surgery and X-knife radiosurgery for brain lesions.
Present Day and Moving Forward
In 2017, most neurological advances are technology driven. According to Lawrence Chin, MD, chair of the American Association of Neurosurgical Surgeons IT Committee, the key areas where neurosurgery breakthroughs are happening now are in:
- Simulation technology
- Imaging advances
- Functional neurosurgery developments
The future is bright. Improving laser technology is making non-invasive surgery a real possibility. And simulation technology will soon make it possible for neurosurgeons to “rehearse” surgeries or supplement an actual procedure using both virtual and authentic-reality simulation.