SMH expanding limits of minimally invasive spine surgery

Nearly 10% of Americans living with chronic back pain that restricts ability to perform everyday activities, hospital staff says

Dr. Sasha Vaziri. Photo courtesy Sarasota Memorial Hospital

Nearly 10% of Americans “are living with chronic back pain so serious it impacts their ability to perform everyday activities,” Sarasota Memorial Hospital staff points out in a news release. “Many opt against surgery, fearing large incisions and long recovery times associated with many traditional procedures,” the release notes.

“But the benefits of robotic and minimally invasive surgical techniques” are allowing Sarasota Memorial Hospital (SMH) spine surgeons to repair a wide range of spine conditions through key-hole incisions, “giving patients with debilitating back pain more options than ever before,” the release adds.

“A decade ago, minimally invasive techniques were used sparingly because of the spine’s close proximity to critical nerve and vascular structures,” said Dr. Sasha Vaziri, “a fellowship-trained neurosurgeon who has helped bring the latest advances in minimally invasive spine surgery to SMH and the Suncoast community,” in the release. “The technology has come a long way,” he added, “especially in the last few years. Today’s tools and technologies give us the precision, visualization and flexibility to address a much wider range of diseases and disorders through tiny incisions instead of one large opening, and that leads to less pain and downtime for our patients.”

Although not everyone is a candidate for the procedures, the release notes, “minimally invasive options are available to surgically repair herniated discs, synovial cysts, lumbar stenosis and other complex conditions of the spine. Compared to traditional open surgery, minimally invasive techniques offer many advantages,” the release points out. Among them are the following, it says:

  • “Shorter hospital stays.
  • “Faster recovery.
  • Less damage to surrounding tissue.
  • “Lower risks of infection and complications.

“Just ask Holly Bryan, a retired clinician from Maine who moved to Venice seven years ago,” the release continues. “She underwent minimally invasive spine surgery at SMH-Sarasota in October 2023 after a painful cyst the size of a pea developed between the L4 and L5 vertebrae,” the release adds, referring to lumbar vertebrae. “She tried pain medication, injections and physical therapy first, but said the pain worsened and quickly sidelined her from every activity she loved” — pickleball, hiking and leisure activities with friends and family, for examples.

“I was a complete invalid,” she said in the release. “Every minute of every day was a struggle. When I was referred to Dr. Vaziri and he recommended a minimally invasive approach, I did not hesitate.”

This graphic shows the lumbar vertebrae in red. Image created by Anatomography, viaWikimedia Commons

The release explains that “Vaziri used the recently FDA-cleared Teligen system to decompress the affected nerves and provide stability to Holly’s spine. Like endoscopic procedures, the Teligen system allows surgeons to operate through a small tube using specialized tools, but with a multidirectional camera that provides a larger, clearer field of view. The advanced technology allows surgeons greater visibility and maneuverability to perform complex spine procedures through 1/4- to 1/2-inch sized incisions, which in Holly’s case, dramatically reduced her recovery time.”

The release adds that Bryan was discharged from the hospital the day after her procedure; within weeks, she once again was “enjoying her active lifestyle. But the biggest gift, she said, was getting Dr. Vaziri’s green light to attend her stepson’s wedding in Jamaica just weeks after surgery.”

“I was six weeks post-op and had to take it easy, but it was a wonderful trip and practically pain-free,” she recalled, as noted in the release. “Now life is wonderful. I am enjoying long walks with my husband and our dog, going out with friends and even playing pickleball again, a little more carefully.”

This summer, Bryan and her husband are planning a river cruise to Europe, “with light hiking in Switzerland.” That was another trip, she said in the release, “that seemed impossible just six months ago.”