- Anesthesiologist specializing in non-surgical spine care
Fellowship-trained in Interventional Spine
For the person with back and neck pain, the journey through treatment can be agonizing. The patient often has to travel to one office for a physician visit, to another office for X-ray, then to another office for therapy, etc. If they are referred to outside specialists for non-surgical treatment options — such as a spinal injection — the patient often has to explain again their symptoms and medical history to a new physician.
All of this fragmentation prolongs the treatment process, creates duplication of effort, increases healthcare costs — and frustrates the person who is already suffering from back or neck pain.
Baptist Health Spine Center in Little Rock, Arkansas assembles under one roof the expertise of four spine neurosurgeons; one non-surgical spine physician who specializes in non-surgical treatment options and spinal injections; a team of spine therapists working in an exercise gym; an internal injection suite; and a diagnostic center with X-ray and MRI all within the same building.
The facility — located near the main Baptist Health campus in on the west side of Little Rock — combines all the necessary aspects of spine care under one roof so the back or neck pain sufferer no longer has to drive around town to multiple locations for doctor visits, diagnostics and therapy. Communication is also enhanced because the patient has one central medical record that all the providers can access, so the patient no longer has to repeat themselves to a series of fragmented physicians and therapists.
“The problem with spine care is that the back pain sufferer is bounced from a primary care provider to another location with a pain specialist to a third location for therapy and then a spine surgeon,” explains Gautam Gandhi, MD, a spine specialist at Baptist Health Spine Center in Little Rock, Arkansas. "In the process, the back pain sufferer has to explain their problem over and over again to all the different people involved in their case. We combine the spine team in one location so the person doesn’t have to drive around town anymore."
The patient can also be confused about the benefits of lasers, magnets, pills and other gizmos, explains Dr. Gandhi. "Americans love new technology, magic pills and miracle cures — especially ones that don’t involve any effort on the person’s part. Understandably, it’s easy to become confused about what is the best approach for spine care with all the communication clutter out there. For example, lasers may sound high-tech, but the medical reality is that a laser is simply a cutting tool and for medical purposes, a poor one at that because it’s harder to control the 3D depth of an incision with a laser. For instance, industrial lasers are used to cut through sheet metal. Do you really want a cutting device like that around your spinal cord? Research from the well-regarded Cochrane Report has concluded that there is no clinical benefit from lasers in spine surgery, and many prominent spine surgeons believe the tool is not well suited to control the depth of an incision.”
"Our goal with Baptist Health Spine Center in Little Rock, Arkansas is to create a well-informed healthcare consumer who can make the right choices with the right information,” he adds.
The spine center, for example, distributes a free 36 page Home Remedy Book on back and neck pain to patients. The book has symptom charts that show which symptoms need to be seen immediately to prevent permanent paralysis of nerves. The book of back pain remedies includes stretches that relieve many symptoms at home.
The symptom chart educates people if the person can use watchful waiting or not. “A patient may use watchful waiting for radiating pain into an arm or leg,” explains Dr. Gandhi. “But you cannot delay treatment for weakness or numbness in a foot or hand, because those symptoms can become permanent if untreated. Other symptoms that may be associated with neck pain, where a person’s eyes become sensitive to light, can imply cervical meningitis which needs to be seen in an emergency room immediately.”
In summary, the goal of Baptist Health is to have the spine center evolve into a regional destination for spine care with a team of spine physicians working together to exhaust non-surgical treatment options for back pain in Little Rock, Arkansas. If spine surgery is necessary, the spine center emphasizes minimally invasive spine surgery techniques that shorten the incision, lessen blood loss, shorten the time in the hospital with the patient often going home the same day for a less painful and quick return to their favorite activity.