Saturday, May 18, 2024

Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport Neurosurgeon Performs Hospital’s First Awake Spine Surgery

by BPT Staff
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Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport Neurosurgeon Dr. Stanley Hoang, FAANS, recently performed the hospital’s first awake spine surgery. Traditionally, patients undergo general anesthesia that renders them unconscious for the procedure. For this surgery, a local anesthetic was used to numb the nerves in the spinal cord. 

The patient, James Howell of Waterproof, Louisiana, injured his back on an offshore drilling rig in 1997. He dealt with pain for many years before eventually being referred to Dr. Hoang. Dr. Hoang performed a minimally invasive discectomy to remove a disc from the patient’s spine that was causing the pain. During his evaluation, Dr. Hoang learned of Mr. Howell’s reluctance to have general anesthesia and began looking at other options.

“General anesthesia has different side effects,” said Dr. Hoang. “It can cause issues with cognition, nausea, vomiting and memory loss. Some people prefer not to be put to sleep for these operations.”

Dr. Hoang worked with Ochsner LSU Health anesthesiologists on the more complex spinal anesthesia. The patient was numbed from the waist down and able to talk to the medical team during the procedure. For Mr. Howell, the recovery time was much shorter than if he had undergone the procedure with general anesthesia. Once the numbness wore off, he was able to go home to recuperate. Dr. Hoang said that a spine surgery patient would normally spend several days in the hospital and weeks to months out of work recuperating. Those time frames can limit the benefit of having spine surgery.

“Awake spine surgery is good for people with issues that preclude having general anesthesia,” said Dr. Hoang. “People with severe COPD or severe cardiac failure cannot tolerate having general anesthesia. This would be a great option for them.”

James Howell is on the road to recovery. For the first time in years, he is living without the pain caused by his disc issue. He is able to easily tie his shoes and walk without pain.

“I can walk a little faster, no pain in my back,” said Howell. “I have to thank Dr. Hoang a whole lot. He and his staff did a wonderful job.”

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