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Penn Medicine First In State To Perform Innovative Spinal Repair Procedure

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) —  There is a new quick and easy procedure is for patients who have back and leg pain from a herniated disc. Now, instead of traditional surgery to repair the spine, Penn Medicine is the first in the state to perform this new endoscopic procedure.

"I'm doing great -- back to work," Kevin Clark, who had the innovative procedure done, said.

It's not the kind of quick recovery usually associated with back surgery but Clark is a history maker.

Clark, a bridge inspector, is the first patient in Pennsylvania to have a new - minimally invasive surgery to repair a herniated disc.

"It was just so quick of a recovery that like I said it was almost like I was on vacation," he said.

Dr. Neil Malhotra, a neurosurgeon at Penn Medicine, devised the new spinal laminectomy surgery, which removes fragments of bone and disc material to relieve pressure on the nerve.

Traditionally, the surgery is performed on the back of the spine but now Dr. Malhorta is able to access the disc through the side of the spine.

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"I got there through this opening called the framin, instead of shaving bone and doing a bunch of work that really doesn't help you. It just gets us to that space," Dr. Malhotra explained.

Basically, instead of a long and involved surgery, this one is quick and easy.

"The excitement about this approach is that we're finally getting the instruments and tools we need that are made small enough and of the appropriate dimensions that we can take advantage of spaces that naturally exist in the spine," Dr. Malhotra explained.

And that means patients like Clark have a much easier recovery. He knows all about it, because he had the traditional surgery on a different part of his spine three years ago.

"This time I was walking right out of recovery, so it was amazing how much easier it was," Clark said.

Dr. Malhotra says the endoscopic decompression procedure is currently only used for patients who have disc problems that cause sciatica, which is pain that runs down the leg. But he hopes in the future, with newer equipment, he'll be able to do more minimally invasive back operations.

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