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If you have neck pain you are not alone. It’s estimated that each year, one in three people experience some type of neck pain.
While most of these cases are simple neck strain that can resolve over time with spine therapy and other non-surgical treatment options, there are many serious neck pain issues, including herniated discs and fractures that require surgery.
It’s important for the neck pain sufferer to understand that your choice of physician will be the most important decision influencing the quality of healthcare you will receive. There are 4 main areas that should affect your choice of neck surgeon to address your neck pain symptoms.
1. Specialization in neck surgery only
Like anything else in life, practice makes perfect, and those physicians who specialize in a specific niche — like focusing only on back and neck surgery and nothing else — will tend to become more proficient than another surgeon who treats other leg or arm problems, or brain tumors. Over the course of a year, Dr. Jatana will likely do twice as many back and neck surgeries compared to a general orthopedic surgeon or a neurosurgeon who spends half their time doing brain tumors or head trauma in an emergency room.
2. Fellowship training
The 2nd issue relates to specialized training. Fellowship training is the highest level of medical education possible in the United States. After extensive training as an orthopedic surgeon or neurosurgeon, some elite surgeons elect to do another year of training at an elite regional spine center focusing specifically on spine surgery, doing only spine surgery cases, rather than splitting their time among brain surgery or hip or knee surgery.
3. Minimally invasive surgery & advances in neck surgery
Variation #1: Out of date surgical methods
Some physicians stay current with the most advanced surgical methods like minimally invasive spine surgery where the surgeon operates through narrow tubular retractors about the width of a ball point pen. These narrow tubular retractors use tiny cameras and cutting devices in the tip. This takes extensive training to become proficient because the surgeon is operating through a tiny inch-long incision.
Some other surgeons, however, prefer to make longer 3 inch incisions because that is how they were trained 20 or 30 years ago. While it’s easier for the surgeon to operate through a 3-inch open incision, the patient has more blood loss, more time spent in the hospital, and a longer and more painful recovery. Many of Dr. Jatana’s patients go home the same day after spine surgery.
Variation #2: Recommending fusion rather than motion preservation and artificial disc replacement
When a disc ruptures or herniates in the neck or back, the surgeon then must perform a discectomy procedure that removes the herniated disc which is pressing on a nearby nerve root causing symptoms of radiating pain or numbness or weakness in a hand. When that damaged disc is removed, something has to be inserted to restore the disc height. In a fusion, a piece of bone is inserted as a disc spacer. Spinal fusion has been the traditional treatment for herniated discs over the last 30 years.
Research from the North American Spine Society — the largest group of spine surgeons in the world — has documented that when you lock two vertebrae together in a neck fusion, you cause “adjacent segment disease”. This means that a fusion may place more stress on the disc level above and below the fusion site, causing other discs to herniate.
The most advanced neck surgeons may recommend for patients who qualify, an artificial disc replacment. In disc replacement surgery, a tiny artificial disc is inserted in the disc space which enables the neck to retain movement. This is called motion preservation surgery, which requires advanced training and approval by the companies that manufacture the artificial disc.
Lastly, unlike other spine surgeons who are trained in only one type of artificial disc, Dr. Jatana is trained and proficient in the use of the FOUR most popular FDA-approved artificial discs. He is proficient in the use of the following artificial discs:
- Prodisc Vivo
- Prestige LP
• Cervical Lamino-Foraminotomy
• Cervical Laminoplasty
There are relatively few spine surgeons in the State of Colorado trained to perform these two neck surgeries. “Both of these surgeries are motion-preserving non-fusion neck surgeries,” explains Dr. Jatana. “These surgeries require specialized expertise in neck surgery because they involve a posterior approach (from the back of the neck), the use of tiny instruments and microsurgery. The benefit of these two surgeries is that they are minimally invasive, non-fusion, and motion preserving approaches that provide a faster return to activity.”
The advantages of a Cervical Lamino-Foraminotomy and Cervical Laminoplasty include: Less invasive surgery; non-fusion; retains natural movement of the neck; and a faster return to work/activity.
4. Emphasis on non-surgical treatment options first
Unlike other medical problems, with back or neck pain, it’s crucial for you to know that pain can be a bad indicator of when you need to see a doctor.
For example, a neck or back strain can be excruciatingly painful. But a back or neck strain is never a surgical problem. Instead, the emergency symptom for neck problems is weakness or numbness in an arm or hand. If these symptoms aren’t seen within a week by a spine surgeon, the numb hand or weakness in the hand can become permanent and lifelong. Other symptoms that also imply that a herniated disc is pressing on a nerve root is pain that radiates into an arm or hand.
Through this educational Internet site, you will learn about:
- what is causing your back or neck pain
- when to see the doctor
- when to use watchful waiting for back or neck pain and when you can’t
- what non-surgical treatment options relieve back pain and neck pain
- pain-relieving spinal injections and spine therapy
- treatment for herniated discs in the cervical spine and low back
- stenosis and cervical myelopathy
- when minimally invasive back or neck surgery, or even artificial disc replacement, can sometimes be the best and quickest way back to a pain-free active life
- artificial disc replacement for the neck
The good news is that even if surgery is required, many times this can be done in the morning, and you can be home later the same day.
Sanjay Jatana, MD is one of the top spine surgeons in Colorado, based in Denver, who specializes in the treatment of back and neck pain and spine surgery. Dr. Jatana provides second opinions for spine surgery and MRI reviews of the neck. Philosophically, Dr. Jatana emphasizes non-surgical treatment options in advance of neck surgery. Where spine surgery is necessary because of a herniated disc, spinal fracture, or spinal stenosis, Dr. Jatana uses minimally invasive spine surgery techniques and is trained in the use of advanced robotic spine technology. He is proficient in the use of four different artificial discs that help patients relieve pain symptoms and get back to activity. This spine surgery expertise enables many patients to have outpatient spine surgery and be home the same day.
Dr. Jatana’s patients travel from across the Front Range, including: Boulder; Colorado Springs; Pueblo; Fort Collins; and Denver suburbs like Golden and Aurora. Dr. Jatana’s office can provide out of town patients traveling from Vail; Aspen; Grand Junction; Durango; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Kansas or Nebraska with recommendations on nearby hotels.
Accepted Insurance Plans:
If you have questions about your specific plan please call our office at 303-MY-SPINE for more information.
- Assurant Health
- Cigna-Great West
- Rocky Mountain Health Plans
- Tricare – West, Standard and Prime (with a referral)
- United Healthcare/UMR
- Worker’s Compensation
Dr. Sanjay Jatana specializes spine surgery. He is featured on the national site CentersforArtificialDisc.com as an author on the subject of artificial disc replacement for herniated discs in the neck. Dr. Jatana is one of few surgeons in the State of Colorado who provides several surgical options to spinal fusion in the neck. The Centers for Artificial Disc web site has content specific to disc replacement options and alternatives to spinal fusion. If you’ve been told you need a spinal fusion, Dr. Jatana can provide a second opinion for neck surgery. Click here to visit the Centers for Artificial Disc for more information on artificial disc replacement surgery.