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Pierce D. Nunley, Gregory M. Mundis Jr., Richard G. Fessler, Paul Park, Joseph M. Zavatsky, Juan S. Uribe, Robert K. Eastlack, Dean Chou, Michael Y. Wang, Neel Anand, Kelly A. Frank, Marcus B. Stone, Adam S. Kanter, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Praveen V. Mummaneni and the International Spine Study Group

OBJECTIVE

The aim of this study was to educate medical professionals about potential financial impacts of improper diagnosis-related group (DRG) coding in adult spinal deformity (ASD) surgery.

METHODS

Medicare’s Inpatient Prospective Payment System PC Pricer database was used to collect 2015 reimbursement data for ASD procedures from 12 hospitals. Case type, hospital type/location, number of operative levels, proper coding, length of stay, and complications/comorbidities (CCs) were analyzed for effects on reimbursement. DRGs were used to categorize cases into 3 types: 1) anterior or posterior only fusion, 2) anterior fusion with posterior percutaneous fixation with no dorsal fusion, and 3) combined anterior and posterior fixation and fusion.

RESULTS

Pooling institutions, cases were reimbursed the same for single-level and multilevel ASD surgery. Longer stay, from 3 to 8 days, resulted in an additional $1400 per stay. Posterior fusion was an additional $6588, while CCs increased reimbursement by approximately $13,000. Academic institutions received higher reimbursement than private institutions, i.e., approximately $14,000 (Case Types 1 and 2) and approximately $16,000 (Case Type 3). Urban institutions received higher reimbursement than suburban institutions, i.e., approximately $3000 (Case Types 1 and 2) and approximately $3500 (Case Type 3). Longer stay, from 3 to 8 days, increased reimbursement between $208 and $494 for private institutions and between $1397 and $1879 for academic institutions per stay.

CONCLUSIONS

Reimbursement is based on many factors not controlled by surgeons or hospitals, but proper DRG coding can significantly impact the financial health of hospitals and availability of quality patient care.

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Karthik Madhavan, John Paul G. Kolcun, Lee Onn Chieng and Michael Y. Wang

Surgical robots have captured the interest—if not the widespread acceptance—of spinal neurosurgeons. But successful innovation, scientific or commercial, requires the majority to adopt a new practice. “Faster, better, cheaper” products should in theory conquer the market, but often fail. The psychology of change is complex, and the “follow the leader” mentality, common in the field today, lends little trust to the process of disseminating new technology. Beyond product quality, timing has proven to be a key factor in the inception, design, and execution of new technologies. Although the first robotic surgery was performed in 1985, scant progress was seen until the era of minimally invasive surgery. This movement increased neurosurgeons’ dependence on navigation and fluoroscopy, intensifying the drive for enhanced precision. Outside the field of medicine, various technology companies have made great progress in popularizing co-robots (“cobots”), augmented reality, and processor chips. This has helped to ease practicing surgeons into familiarity with and acceptance of these technologies. The adoption among neurosurgeons in training is a “follow the leader” phenomenon, wherein new surgeons tend to adopt the technology used during residency. In neurosurgery today, robots are limited to computers functioning between the surgeon and patient. Their functions are confined to establishing a trajectory for navigation, with task execution solely in the surgeon’s hands. In this review, the authors discuss significant untapped technologies waiting to be used for more meaningful applications. They explore the history and current manifestations of various modern technologies, and project what innovations may lie ahead.

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George M. Ghobrial and Michael Y. Wang

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Timur M. Urakov, Ken Hsuan-kan Chang, S. Shelby Burks and Michael Y. Wang

OBJECTIVE

Spine surgery is complex and involves various steps. Current robotic technology is mostly aimed at assisting with pedicle screw insertion. This report evaluates the feasibility of robot-assisted pedicle instrumentation in an academic environment with the involvement of residents and fellows.

METHODS

The Renaissance Guidance System was used to plan and execute pedicle screw placement in open and percutaneous consecutive cases performed in the period of December 2015 to December 2016. The database was reviewed to assess the usability of the robot by neurosurgical trainees. Outcome measures included time per screw, fluoroscopy time, breached screws, and other complications. Screw placement was assessed in patients with postoperative CT studies. The speed of screw placement and fluoroscopy time were collected at the time of surgery by personnel affiliated with the robot’s manufacturer. Complication and imaging data were reviewed retrospectively.

RESULTS

A total of 306 pedicle screws were inserted in 30 patients with robot guidance. The average time for junior residents was 4.4 min/screw and for senior residents and fellows, 4.02 min/screw (p = 0.61). Among the residents dedicated to spine surgery, the average speed was 3.84 min/screw, while nondedicated residents took 4.5 min/screw (p = 0.41). Evaluation of breached screws revealed some of the pitfalls in using the robot.

CONCLUSIONS

No significant difference regarding the speed of pedicle instrumentation was detected between the operators’ years of experience or dedication to spine surgery, although more participants are required to investigate this completely. On the other hand, there was a trend toward improved efficiency with more cases performed. To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first reported academic experience with robot-assisted spine instrumentation.

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Michael Y. Wang, Tetsuya Goto, Enrico Tessitore and Anand Veeravagu

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Giacomo Pacchiarotti, Michael Y. Wang, John Paul G. Kolcun, Ken Hsuan-kan Chang, Motasem Al Maaieh, Victor S. Reis and Dao M. Nguyen

Solitary paravertebral schwannomas in the thoracic spine and lacking an intraspinal component are uncommon. These benign nerve sheath tumors are typically treated using complete resection with an excellent outcome. Resection of these tumors is achieved by an anterior approach via open thoracotomy or minimally invasive thoracoscopy, by a posterior approach via laminectomy, or by a combination of both approaches. These tumors most commonly occur in the midthoracic region, for which surgical removal is usually straightforward. The authors of this report describe 2 cases of paravertebral schwannoma at extreme locations of the posterior mediastinum, one at the superior sulcus and the other at the inferior sulcus of the thoracic cavity, for which the usual surgical approaches for safe resection can be challenging. The tumors were completely resected with robot-assisted thoracoscopic surgery. This report suggests that single-stage anterior surgery for this type of tumor in extreme locations is safe and effective with this novel minimally invasive technique.

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Michael Y. Wang, Peng-Yuan Chang and Jay Grossman

OBJECTIVE

Over the past decade, Enhancing Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) programs have been implemented throughout the world across multiple surgical disciplines. However, to date no spinal surgery equivalent has been described. In this report the authors review the development and implementation of a “fast track” surgical approach for lumbar fusion.

METHODS

The first 42 consecutive cases in which patients were treated with the new surgical procedure were reviewed. A combination of endoscopic decompression, expandable cage deployment, and percutaneous screw placement were performed with liposomal bupivacaine anesthesia to allow the surgery to be performed without general endotracheal anesthesia.

RESULTS

In all cases the surgical procedure was performed successfully without conversion to an open operation. The patients' mean age (± SD) was 66.1 ± 11.7 years, the male/female ratio was 20:22, and a total of 47 levels were treated. The mean operative time was 94.6 ± 22.4 minutes, the mean intraoperative blood loss was 66 ± 30 ml, and the mean hospital length of stay was 1.29 ± 0.9 nights. Early follow-up showed a significant improvement in the mean Oswestry Disability Index score (from 40 ± 13 to 17 ± 11, p = 0.0001). Return to the operating room was required in 2 cases due to infection and in 1 case due to cage displacement. An iterative quality improvement program demonstrated areas of improvement, including steps to minimize infection, improve postoperative analgesia, and reduce cage osteolysis.

CONCLUSIONS

ERAS programs for improving spinal fusion surgery are possible and necessary. This report demonstrates a first foray to apply these principles through 1) a patient-focused approach, 2) reducing the stress of the operation, and 3) an iterative improvement process.