The Back Bulletin
August, 2021

NASS/JSRS Spine Across the Sea Meeting: First In-Person Conference in 18 months!

by: Dr. David Wong
It was a joy to be able to attend the first face-to-face international spine conference held since the Covid Pandemic lockdown began.
Every three years, the North American Spine Society (NASS) and the Japanese Spine Research Society (JSRS) co-sponsor the Spine Across the Sea (SxS) meeting in Hawaii. This conference is a superb opportunity for researchers and clinicians from both sides of the Pacific to present their latest research, debate controversial topics in spine treatments, exchange ideas, and network with their counterparts.
Unfortunately, at the last minute, Japan went back into Covid lockdown so the Japanese attendees were not able to attend in person. Fortunately, infrastructure was already in place to move the conference to a virtual format, so the Japanese attendees presented and interacted via Zoom.
Nevertheless, the Program Co-Chairs from NASS and JSRS organized superb sessions addressing many of the ongoing controversies in spine care such as: surgical complications, new concepts in imaging, bone health in management of spinal disorders, and management of lumbar degenerative spondylolisthesis.
Overall, very interesting to see the trend in spine surgery in both countries moving towards the minimally invasive microsurgical approach that we have been practicing in our clinic for more than 20 years.
Credit for the advanced, cutting-edge position of Denver Spine Surgeons in the field of minimally spinal invasive microsurgery clearly rests on the shoulders of our late partner, John McCulloch, who tragically died in a skiing accident in 2002.
John was motivated to investigate more minimally invasive approaches after experiencing treatment for his own lumbar herniated disc. He viewed use of the operating microscope as the key to the development of minimally invasive surgery. Many of the instruments we use for microsurgery today were designed by McCulloch and still bear his name. 
As he gained more experience with microsurgery, McCulloch and his long-term neurosurgical collaborator, Paul Young, developed more advanced techniques. These techniques are still used to improve patient outcomes, decrease risk of future fusion surgeries, and decrease recovery time.
The most relevant and interesting portions of the Spine Across the Sea meeting showcased the ongoing worldwide adoption of minimally invasive spine surgery. Included in the discussion were several of the more advanced techniques developed by Dr.  McCulloch. The current members of Denver Spine Surgeons continue to employ these minimally invasive microsurgical procedures on a daily basis and teach these techniques to new generations of spine surgeons as faculty for hands-on courses sponsored by the North American Spine Society (NASS).

Patient Spotlight:  

Barbara Bess

One of the most active 74-year-olds you’ll ever meet, Barbara was adamant that pain wouldn’t cramp her lifestyle. And when we say active, we mean it. A past gymnast and competitive weightlifter (including a Ms. Universe Master’s title and an Arizona Dust Devil Master’s title), Barbara rides hard - road bikes, mountain bikes, motorized dirt bikes, even flexys (Google it, they’re wooden sleds with wheels).
So, when Barbara started making accommodations to her lifestyle for her pain, she thought she should seek help. She was misdiagnosed with bilateral hip problems and tried steroid injections; she tried physical therapy; she tried dry needling; she tried spinal injections. Nothing helped. Stairs were becoming a problem, getting into and out of bed was painful, she could barely mount her bikes, and the pain progressively got worse for 3 years; all the while Barbara refused to give up the beloved sports that both she and her husband enjoyed. It was and is their lifestyle. Barbara’s pain made her clumsy and forgetful; it was always at the forefront of her mind. Her husband was constantly worried about her when they were biking, but Barbara thought “I can’t just lie around, my clock is ticking, and I need to enjoy life while I can.”
Her son, a local orthopedic spine surgeon specializing in spinal deformities, recommended she see Dr. Ghiselli. Barbara immediately realized that Dr. Ghiselli was listening to her, he understood her passion for activity. When other practitioners told her “what did you expect with your lifestyle?” Dr. Ghiselli told her “I think surgery can help you do what you love without the pain.” And Chris Tomasi, Dr. Ghiselli’s Medical Assistant, helped, "she was wonder woman, she constantly kept me informed,” Barbara says.
So, Barbara listened to Dr. Ghiselli’s recommendation and had a 3-level decompression and instrumented fusion surgery in December of 2020. The pain was not gone right away; she needed a cane initially, but she weaned herself off pain meds and forced herself to start walking – around the house, then around the neighborhood – and after three weeks she was back on her mountain bike. Now her day-to-day pain is gone, she accepts her limits though: she “puts her feet up” after a black mountain bike run, she doesn’t lift anything heavy, and she has stopped running. Barbara says, “if just one other person can realize the relief I have as a direct result of Dr. Ghiselli’s surgery, I will be happy I told my story.”
The above photo was taken on her first black-rated dirt bike ride after her surgery. The joy and gratitude on her face are clear – happy she can do the things she loves, and thankful Dr. Ghiselli helped her get back to them without pain.

Did you know OCC Imaging and Physical Therapy are available right here in our building?

Together, OCC Imaging and OCC PT help us provide coordinated spine care to our patients.
OCC Imaging offers MRI and CAT scan disgnostic tools from radiologists we know and trust. The OCC Imaging staff is familiar with the unique imaging sequences we request for diagnosing our patients. And OCC Imaging offers apppointments from 6:00am to 9:30pm weekdays and on Saturdays for our patients' convenience. 
We have worked extensively with the spine-specific therapists at OCC Physical Therapy. This proximity and working relationship means your orthopedic physical therapist and spine surgeon can walk across the hall to ask a question, or update your individualized PT therapy as needed to optimize your recovery.
Our trusted OCC imaging and physical therapy partners, conveniently located in our building, help us offer seamless musculoskeletal care for our patients.  

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