Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Airs Internet Webcast of Spinal Fusion Surgery

Monday, November 01, 2004

New Brunswick, NJ – Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital aired its third live internet surgery today, this time demonstrating an innovative spinal fusion procedure to alleviate chronic back pain. The surgery was performed by attending orthopaedic surgeon Steven M. Reich, MD, and staff surgeon John D. Tydings, MD.

“Back pain usually occurs after strenuous activity and dissipates after a few hours or days,” said Dr. Reich, who is also a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Division of Orthopaedic Surgery at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. "Severe, unremitting pain that does not respond to appropriate treatment and prevents an individual from working or performing activities of daily living requires medical attention. In certain circumstances, surgery can be an option."

During this less invasive procedure, called Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion, or TLIF, Dr. Reich first removed the pain-causing disc, and then used a piece of the patient’s hip bone to fuse the two vertebrae, enabling them to mold together.

Dr. Reich utilized a special piece of equipment, which he helped to design, during this procedure. This water jet technology device, known as “Spinejet,” allows rapid, thorough and safe removal of the disc, leading to a more effective fusion.

Spinal fusion is a process of welding two or more vertebrae of the spine to form a single bone, eliminating pain arising from abnormal motion between adjacent vertebrae. The vertebrae are united using a bone graft from the patient or a bone bank, and they are held in place by a variety of metallic and carbon fiber implants which allow the bones to heal together.

Most patients are out of bed and walking the day after the surgery, typically spending only two days in the hospital. Upon discharge, they are able to care for themselves at home, with the exception of heavy lifting and bending at the waist. Some patients return to work as early as two weeks following the procedure; however, most remain home for 6-10 weeks. Patients with strenuous jobs require a strengthening program before returning to work.

While Dr. Reich and Dr. Tydings performed the surgery, Scott R. Shepard, MD, Attending Neurosurgeon at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and Assistant Professor of Surgery at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, narrated the procedure and responded to emails from a viewing audience of physicians, medical students and members of the general public.

Approximately 80 percent of the population has back pain severe enough to keep them out of work for one day in their lifetime, and more than three-quarters of these people will have recurrent episodes of severe back pain. Most pain is successfully alleviated with non-operative treatments, including rest, medication, physical therapy, chiropractic treatment and pain management techniques. The 5-10 percent of patients who do not respond to these treatments can then be evaluated for possible surgical intervention.

View an archived version of this broadcast at:

About Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) is a 600-bed academic medical center and the principal hospital of Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, N.J.

RWJUH is an innovative leader in advancing state-of-the-art care. Its Centers of Excellence include cardiovascular care, from minimally invasive heart surgery to transplantation; cancer care; and women’s and children’s care, including The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital (

The hospital is a Level I Trauma Center and serves as a national resource in its ground-breaking approaches to emergency preparedness.

RWJUH has earned significant national recognition for clinical quality and patient safety. It ranks among “America’s Best Hospitals,” according to U.S.News & World Report’s 2012 survey; it is the sixth consecutive year that RWJUH has achieved this prestigious ranking. Also in 2012, U.S.News & World Report ranked BMSCH among the nation’s “Best Children’s Hospitals.” The American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer has rated RWJUH among the nation's best comprehensive cancer centers. The Leapfrog Group rated RWJUH among the 50 exceptional U.S. hospitals, as published in Consumers Digest, and has given the hospital an “A” grade for safety and quality. Harvard University researchers, in a study commissioned by The Commonwealth Fund, identified RWJUH as one of the top 10 hospitals in the nation for clinical quality. RWJUH is a four-time recipient of the prestigious Magnet Award for Nursing Excellence

Attention members of the media: For more information on this release, please contact the Department of Public Relations (732) 937-8521.


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