Ask the Expert: A Surgeon and Professor of Orthopedic Surgery Has Answers

Q&As by Todd J. Albert, MD, Surgeon in Chief Emeritus, Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, Hospital for Special Surgery

Surgeon expertise is one of the best things we can offer patients in the spine health community here at the National Spine Health Foundation. We work with top surgeons from across the country and are thankful they provide answers to your most pressing questions.

In the most recent issue of our Spine Health Journal, Dr. Todd J. Albert answered a few questions about his work! Check out some of his surgeon expertise here:

What is your speciality and what drew you to the field? My specialty is spine surgery, with a focus on the cervical spine and other deformities.

What are the top 3 innovations that you are excited about within the spinal health industry? Minimally invasive spine surgery: While outcomes may in the end be similar, infection rates are lower, the hospital length of stay is less, and the patients do want it if we can accomplish similar goals with less destruction of native tissues.

Augmented reality and robotics: Because these adjuncts allow us to perform surgery with less error in instrumentation placement, as an augmentation to less invasive surgery and an augmentation to better workflows and preoperative planning.

Regenerative therapies for the disc: While aspirational at present, when operationalized and developed, these therapeutic interventions have the potential to avoid surgery altogether by inhibiting or reversing disc degeneration and its byproducts.

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What is the most major technological trend you expect to see in the next year? I foresee the use of augmented reality being regularly used in spinal surgery.

Looking back to when you first entered the field and comparing to where we are now, what surprises or intrigues you the most? I never thought we would get to a place where robots actually functioned and were of use in surgery, yet here we are!

Should patients wait for surgery/technology to improve before receiving care? Patients should not wait for technology to improve before pursuing surgery if they have an indication (valid reason for treatment) and have tried alternatives. The results are wonderful with the right indications and the advances in the last 10 years are making incremental, positive changes in treatment options for patients.

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Should/do patients have a role in contributing to further advancing spinal health care? If so, how? Patients can help advance spinal health care by being open to new technologies offered by responsible and innovative surgeons. Participating in appropriately designed and ethical studies of those technologies is another way for patients to be actively involved in contributing to the future of spine.

You can hear from Dr. Albert and many other top surgeons across the country in our special Spine-Talks® Cities 2020 video!