As most of us already know, back problems are ever-present in this country. In fact, right at this moment about 250,000 of us are living with spinal cord injuries, according to the National Institutes of Health. And it’s estimated that a whopping 85 percent of us will end up suffering some sort of disabling low back pain injury during our lives.
"I am seeing all aspects of spinal problems … and these are very common problems. In fact, 80-90 percent of people will have this type of problem in their lives," Dr. Raj Kakarlapudi, Medical Director and spine surgeon at St. Elizabeth says.
The prevalence of the problem is one reason why Kakarlapudi is working with St. Elizabeth Healthcare toward the creation of a spine center in Northern Kentucky in the near future, which will bring together all the best technology and brightest professionals in the field of spine health.
Kakarlapudi says his practice is the foundation of that effort. He says he hopes to serve as a valuable local resource for people with all types of spinal ailments. Kakarlapudi says he also hopes to work closely with local primary care doctors to direct patients with spinal problems to the best source of treatment. "My goal is to educate primary care physicians about spinal conditions," Kakarlapudi says.
"I think it’s important for them to know how I can help them figure who can be helped surgically and who might be better served with a non-operative course of treatment. … I’ll be evaluating all those cases in that way."
When to Talk to Your Doctor About Seeing a Spine Surgeon
Kakarlapudi says people should talk to their doctors about seeing a spine surgeon for ongoing complaints involving any part of the spine and neck, as well as pain that extends down the arms and legs, or tingling in the fingers. He will then work with these individuals and their physicians to determine whether surgery is the answer, or if another type of treatment might be more appropriate.
Typically, Kakarlapudi says surgery is only considered when an individual is unable to live with his or her pain or condition, or a problem exists that endangers their health, like compressed nerves, or degenerative or unstable discs. Often too, Kakarlapudi is called on to monitor individuals as they are treated non-surgically to determine when and if it would be best to intervene surgically.
And when it comes to surgery, Kakarlapudi performs a complete array of procedures, but he specializes in minimally invasive measures. When appropriate, these less traumatic operations can offer patients the same benefits as open surgery with fewer risks.
"I’ve really concentrated on minimally invasive spinal surgery and also percutaneous procedures," he says, referring to surgical procedures where access is gained to the spine through small skin punctures, rather than larger openings with a scalpel.
With newer, minimally invasive procedures, we can use image guidance to see where we have to go, requiring a smaller incision instead of taking muscle out. With these procedures there’s a lot less blood loss and a quicker recovery for the patient, who can go home sooner."
St. Elizabeth Healthcare is partnering with its medical staff to develop a fully integrated, multi-disciplinary spine program at its Florence campus, including the services of physical therapists, interventional radiologists and pain management specialists, providing a full continuum of care to patients with spinal ailments.
Editor’s Note: This is a special advertising section provided by St. Elizabeth.