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Physicians Update

 
Spring 2012

UCLA Spine Center Draws Disciplines Together for Benefit of Patients

The UCLA Spine Center is unique among academic institutions in the way it brings together neurosurgery and orthopaedics, two traditionally competing practices, into a cohesive program to treat patients with degenerative and non-degenerative spinal conditions. The UCLA Spine Center, which includes neurosurgeons, orthopaedic surgeons and nonoperative specialists in physical medicine and rehabilitation, is further integrating its practice by moving into a single facility in Santa Monica this summer. Neurosurgeon Langston Holly, M.D., co-director with orthopaedic surgeon Jeffrey Wang, M.D., of the Spine Center, discusses how the new facility not only will benefit patients but also will help disseminate advances in the field to spine specialists around the world.

How will the Spine Center's new facility in Santa Monica advance patient-centered care?
Historically, our neurosurgeons and orthopaedic surgeons have worked together to treat our spine patients. The new facility will bring more disciplines together in one centralized location, which will streamline patient care. By coming together in one location, we can hold our clinics at the same time, which provides patients with better continuity of care. If we want to discuss an interesting case or get a consensus on a treatment approach, we can easily meet together when we are all housed under the same roof. For the convenience of our patients, the new Spine Center will contain in-house radiology, so patients don't need to leave the center to get their X-rays. It will also have state-of-the-art physicaltherapy services, including a 4,000-squarefoot gym with virtual technology, specialized ultrasounds, force-plate equipment and orthotics services. The gym will be great for our patients, because the vast majority of them need physical therapy rather than surgery. Working together, our medical team will be able to quickly and seamlessly get patients where they need to go in one convenient place.

How does the new facility help advance the practice of spine medicine?
The center will have a state-of-the-art conference room with cameras, telemedicine capabilities and medical informatics that will allow us to interact with other spine specialists around the world. This technology will allow us to do a lot of teaching, educating and learning within the Spine Center. That's important because when you're a physician, you're always learning. There are always new developments and new ways of doing things, and you never want to get stuck repeating what you learned in your training years ago. One of the best ways physicians can stay current is to meet with other physicians around the world who do what they do. This kind of collegial learning environment is good for us, because it allows us to learn from others and grow, and it is good for other physicians, because they can also learn and grow from us. By sharing information, we can advance the practice of spine medicine, which is good for our patients.

What is noteworthy about UCLA's spine program?
UCLA surgeons were among the first in Southern California to treat pathologies of the spine with minimally invasive surgical techniques, which have radically improved patient recovery times. Our surgeons are truly pioneers in developing new surgical techniques, novel therapies such as arthoplasty and other innovations such as motion-sparing devices for patients who would otherwise need traditional fusion therapy. Our neurosurgeons and orthopaedic surgeons have extensive experience in minimally invasive surgical techniques for lumbar mircodiscectomy, lumbar laminectomy, lumbar fusion and posterior cervival foraminotomy, which are commonly performed using conventional techniques in many institutions. We have excellent patient outcomes, which is why our program is listed among the top 10 in the nation by U.S.News and World Report.

How is the Spine Center currently contributing to the development of new therapies for patients with degenerative and non-degenerative disorders of the spine?
The Spine Center's neurosurgeons and orthopaedic surgeons consistently measure and evaluate outcomes such as length-of-stay, complication rates and infection rates to ensure treatments are clinically effective. We are also engaged in many cutting-edge research projects in disc degeneration, imaging studies and spinal-cord rehabilitation that are pushing the frontier of available patient treatments in a variety of ways. One study uses MRI spectography to track metabolic, biochemical and microstructural changes in the spinal cord as a way to detect spinal-degenerative disease and spinal-cord injuries before patients even become aware they have a problem. Another project tries to predict which patients are likely to regain neurological function following certain surgeries. As a measure of the quality of our program, our center is one of the few in the nation with funding from the National Institutes of Health to conduct translational research in spinal disorders.

What is your long-term vision for the Spine Center?
We want to continue to provide patients with excellent, interdisciplinary care that is focused on high-quality clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction. We want to continue to do the kind of leading-edge research we have always done. In the future we hope to have some of our novel research translated to the clinical setting where we can change treatment paradigms and improve the lives of our patients in unique ways. And we want to be an educational center for spine specialists in the community, across the nation and around the world.





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