Dr. Stephen Kalhorn: 2 spine devices to be excited about and key considerations for early adapters

Alan Condon -   Print  |

Stephen Kalhorn, MD, is a professor of neurosurgery at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. He treats patients for spinal cord, brain and spinal column disorders, including degenerative conditions affecting the spine such as neck pain, spine fractures and scoliosis among others.

Here Dr. Kalhorn discusses innovations in spine, how to tackle the opioid epidemic and more.

Note: Responses are lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: What technology are you most excited about in spine now? Is there anything that you see as particularly innovative?

Dr. Stephen Kalhorn: I am most excited about two technologies, the first of which is the exoscope. The exoscope enables the surgeon to have extraordinary operative views without the inferior ergonomics of loupes and the standard microscope.  

The second technology that I think will advance our field is ultrasound. A customized ultrasound probe for spine surgery can be very helpful. You can look for pedicle breaches and verify your decompression is adequate. Additionally, I think that ultrasonic aspirators for removing bone and calcified thoracic discs, for example, will change how we manage this challenging and high risk surgical problem. We are working on custom tips to some of these probes that will someday be used for this very purpose, making thoracic disc surgery even less invasive and successful.

Q: What do you consider when thinking about becoming an early adapter of a new device?

SK: The device must show considerable advantages over existing technology, be safe, and cost effective. It's easier to become an early adapter if a particular device solves a long-standing operative challenge for you and others.  

Q: Have you any thoughts on how to tackle the current opioid epidemic?

SK: In general, I think our nation would benefit from a focus on physical activity from childhood onwards. We need to correct the underlying cause for a lot of chronic pain, not to mention the underlying cause for most cases of diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and heart disease — what has been termed the metabolic syndrome.

This is a low cost and simple solution to drastically drive down our nation’s healthcare expenditures and reduce the need for opiates across the board. As usual, there is no quick fix for most things in life. Consistent hard work is usually involved.  And that includes taking care of the body you have been given.

More articles on spine:
Top 10 children's hospitals for neurosurgery, neurology: US News
The future of spine practice and bundled payments: 6 key thoughts
3 neurosurgeons describe their tactics to avoid burnout

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