Technology aids spine surgeon for better outcomes in relieving chronic back pain

WPVI logo
Wednesday, August 30, 2023
Technology aids surgeon for better outcomes in relieving back pain
When the spine needs surgical repair, some people will delay or skip it. Using new techniques, robots mean better outcomes and faster recoveries.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- When the spine needs surgical repair, some people will delay it or skip it entirely, skeptical it will help.

However, new surgical techniques, even high-tech robots mean better outcomes and faster recoveries.

Eileen Silverman's back got really bad in her 30s, after her fourth child.

"I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, and it was bone on bone," Eileen recalls, adding, "I was told my spine looked like a 60-year-old at 30."

Medication did little to help, so Silverman avoided more and more of what she loved to avoid the pain.

Although wary of a lower back operation, she continued hunting for the right surgeon, until she located Dr. Theresa Pazionis, a spinal surgeon at Temple Health.

Her expertise with complex cases reassured Silverman.

"I looked in her eyes, and I had faith in her," she says.

Dr. Pazionis says surgery is a must for spinal deformities, or nerve compressions.

"Meaning you can't move or you can't feel something or your bladder and bowel aren't working," she explains.

And she says technology is an important part of a successful procedure.

A software platform helps make a surgical plan, tailored for each patient's anatomy, type of spinal curve, bone and muscle strength, and even biological age.

It can also predict results.

"If I correct your curve to this degree, you have this chance of failure. But if we correct to perhaps a little bit less, you may actually do better," Dr. Pazionis says.

She also uses a surgical robot along with the platform as a navigator and guide.

"I use it as a tool to help improve accuracy of screw placement, to help decrease operative time, potentially decrease blood loss, make more minimally invasive incisions," she says.

Those elements contribute to better recovery and outcomes.

Silverman got out of bed the day after her surgery earlier this year.

"I could finally feel my feet again. I could feel my leg again. I was feeling complete numbness on my right side," she recalls.

She only regrets not finding Dr. Pazionis sooner.

"There is a fix, and it's there, and you can get it done," Silverman says.

Dr. Pazionis won't operate on smokers because it hampers the lungs, heart, and immune system.

Silverman was angry when he first got that new, but it motivated her to finally break her 30-year smoking habit, and she's thrilled.