What is Awake Spine Surgery?

Awake spine surgery is an advanced surgical technique that allows patients to recover faster, mobilize quicker, and reduces overall pain levels compared to traditional spine surgery. Awake spine surgery eliminates the potential risks associated with general anesthesia such as nausea, and confusion after surgery. The awake spine surgery technique can be used during spinal fusions, and spinal decompressions.

Top spine surgeon, Dr. Ernest Braxton is one of a handful of spine surgeons in the United States that performs this cutting-edge procedure. He has been performing awake spine surgery for nearly a decade. His interest in minimally invasive spine surgery began during his days in the military when return to duty was essential to a mission.

How is Awake Spine Surgery Performed?

The first step when performing awake spine surgery involves giving the patient local anesthetic at the surgical site. This ensures that no pain is felt during the procedure, and allows the spine surgeon to examine the patient’s neurologic condition during surgery. The type of procedure will determine the length of the surgery, but on average awake spine surgery takes approximately 2 hours.

During traditional surgery, surgeons have used physiological measures such as using the patient’s heartbeat and blood pressure to determine whether the patient was experiencing pain during surgery. Now the surgeon can ask the patient and get an immediate answer. This is particularly helpful with spine surgery when the awake patient can help the surgeon locate the pain generator.

During the awake surgery, the patient is fully alert. Dr. Braxton is able to communicate with the patient throughout the operation. This makes the procedure safer, and encourages safer handling of neurologic structures. The patient is placed in a comfortable position and is able to watch a video on an iPad.

It is important to note that not all patients are a candidate for this procedure. The right candidate must have the right temperament to be awake during surgery.

What are the Benefits of Awake Spine Surgery?

The top benefits for awake spine surgery, compared to traditional spine surgery, is a faster recovery, quicker mobilization, and reduced overall pain post-surgery. General anesthesia is not used during awake spine surgery. This eliminates the potential unwanted symptoms associated with general anesthesia for some patients.

In addition, awake surgery allows the spine surgeon to examine the patients in real-time during the spinal fusion, or decompression which eliminates the need for intravenous narcotics. In addition to a faster recovery, the post-surgery hospital stay is drastically reduced, or eliminated. Most patients leave the hospital the same day after awake spine surgery.

What is the Recovery Like After Awake Surgery?

Recovery after awake spine surgery is much quicker compared to traditional spine surgery. Typically, the patient will go home the same day as the procedure. With traditional surgery it can be closer to 3 – 4 days in the hospital. Patients regain mobility quicker and back to the activities they love.

Dr. Braxton is one of the few spine surgeons in the country that offer awake spinal fusions and decompressions. He has been practicing in Vail Colorado since 2017, after having served his country United States Air Force with tours in Afghanistan, Germany, South Korea, and Texas. Contact Dr. Braxton and his team today to learn more about awake spine surgery: 970-476-7220.

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