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Neuroscience Institute

Complex Spine

The Neuroscience Institute provides comprehensive surgical treatment of spinal diseases and injuries. Our physicians and surgeons are experienced in all spinal disorders, including tumors, herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, vascular malformations, and arthritis of the spine. State-of-the-art treatment is provided by our coordinated team of neurosurgeons, consulting medical specialists, therapists, nurses and support staff. Our goal is to improve each patient’s condition and quality of life with the most advanced, least invasive treatment available. Some of clinical services provided include:

  • Endoscopic and minimally invasive spinal surgery
  • Cervical, thoracic and lumbar disc disease care
  • Tumors of the spinal column
  • Adult compression fractures
  • Cervical and lumbar spinal stenosis
  • Scoliosis and spinal deformity
  • Spinal trauma
  • Arthritic conditions of the spine
  • Cervical and lumbar artificial disc replacement

The first goal of care for non-urgent spinal problems is to employ state of the art medical treatments as large numbers of patients will become symptom-free in 4-6 weeks. Only when problems do not resolve with this approach and the problem becomes functionally limiting are surgical approaches considered. With urgent spinal problems - those that are causing or may cause loss of neurologic function - immediate surgery may be necessary.

Associated Treatments

Our neurosurgeons perform thousand of spinal surgeries per year using the newest and most advanced techniques available. Patients are feeling better and returning to their lives faster than ever before. Neurosurgeons at Allegheny General Hospital are involved in pioneering new techniques to improve outcomes every day.

Spine Therapies Group
Since the vast majority of patients with spine disease can be effectively treated with conservative medical care, the Department of Neurosurgery has created a network of physical therapists, chiropractors, physiatrists and pain management specialists to coordinate spine care with standardized protocols and long term outcome tracking.

More than 800 microdiscectomies are performed at AGH by neurosurgeons every year. A portion of the herniated disk is removed to decompress an irritated nerve root through a skin incision that can often be covered with a band aid. The average length of stay is now less than less than 24 hours. AGH neurosurgeons are skilled in the latest minimally invasive approaches to microdiscectomy whether using an endoscope or the microscope.

Lumbar Laminecectomy
This procedure is performed on the lower spine to relieve pressure on one or more nerve roots. The surgeon reaches the lumbar spine through a small incision in the lower back and removes the source of compression – a part of herniated disk or bone spur. Using new techniques, Allegheny General Hospital surgeons can now implant a device – the X Stop – under local anesthesia on an outpatient basis to relieve the debilitating pain from lumbar stenosis.

Anterior Cervical Discectomy
This operation is performed on the upper spine to relieve pressure on one or more nerve roots or on the spinal cord. During this procedure, the intervertebral disc and bone spurs are removed from a small incision in the front of the neck.

Patients with osteoporosis or metastatic disease can develop painful compression fractures of the spine. Through a percutaneous procedure, AGH neurosurgeons are able to use balloons within the bone to restore alignment of the spine. Cement is then injected in to the bone to provide support where the bone has been weakened. Pain relief can be nearly immediate and recovery time is minimal.

Spinal Fusion and Instrumentation
AGH neurosurgeons employ the latest techniques and materials to perform spinal instrumentation procedures. Instrumentation may be required to correct degenerative arthritis, fractured or injured vertebrae, scoliosis, spinal osteoporosis, spinal tumor and spondyloisthesis. A wide range of options are available for the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine. Depending on the condition, an anterior, lateral or posterior approach may be used. Many AGH neurosurgeons specialize in minimally invasive spinal instrumentation and fusion.

Minimally Invasive Spinal Surgery
Neurosurgeons at AGH are specialized in the newest minimally invasive techniques for the spine. Smaller incisions and less dissection of normal tissue are speeding recovery and healing. Microscopes, endoscopes, navigation techniques and intraoperative neuronavigational techniques, as will as innovative surgical approaches, are increasing the safety and improving the outcomes of these procedures.

Restorative Spine Surgery
This procedure can restore a near normal spine motion. In the appropriately selected patient, pain relief is dramatic. Artificial disc replacement is currently FDA approved for the lumbar spine. AGH neurosurgeons have been instrumental in studying the use of artificial discs in the cervical spine.

Senior Spine
There is an ever increasing incidence of spine problems in the aging population. These individuals often have multiple associated medical problems. The Department of Neurosurgery has developed a specialized program to meet the unique needs of these patients. Combining minimally invasive surgery, short hospital stays and geriatric medical care, outcomes are continually improving and offering a better quality of life to our senior citizens.

To ensure a smooth transition from hospitalization to life in the community, we provide comprehensive discharge planning, assistance with entitlements from disability programs, and various forms of adaptation training. Our comprehensive rehabilitation team consists of physiatrists, consulting medical specialists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, social workers and case managers. This coordinated approach contributes to the maximal recovery for each patient.

Integrated Medicine
The Integrated Medicine Program is dedicated to integrating the best conventional and natural healing practices to strengthen the health and well-being of the individuals it serves. The program is respectful of the emotional, social, spiritual and physical dimensions of health and illness. By working with physicians and patients to treat, educate and empower individuals, the Integrated Medicine Program assists in developing a larger healing experience that carries on after treatment at our institution.

Associated Physicians

Routine Spine Surgery

  • Jack Wilberger, MD
  • Parvis Baghai, MD
  • James Burgess, MD
  • David Oliver-Smith, MD
  • Richard Prostko, MD

Complex Spine Surgery

  • Jack Wilberger, MD
  • Eugene A. Bonaroti, MD
  • Donald Whiting, MD
  • David Oliver Smith, MD
  • Michael Oh, MD
  • Patrick Flannagan, MD
  • Hae Dong Jho, MD

Neuro Imaging

  • Robert Williams, MD
  • Melanie Fukui, MD
  • Andrew Ku, MD

Pain Management

  • Dmitri Vassilievue

Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

  • Barbara Swan, MD
West Penn Allegheny Health System
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