Spinal Neurosurgeon Dr. Sheng-fu “Larry” Lo just arrived at The Spine Hospital at the Neurological Institute of New York, and he has hit the ground running. He recently participated in The Johns Hopkins Hospital’s Sixth Annual Spine Workshop, where he spoke to spinal neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons about a specific kind of neck surgery.
Dr. Lo is no stranger to Johns Hopkins—it’s where he completed his residency in neurosurgery, as well as a fellowship in complex spine surgery and spinal oncology, before coming to us here at The Spine Hospital.
The program focused on training surgeons to operate safely and effectively on the spine. Attendees listened to lectures and then practiced their new knowledge in a hands-on cadaver workshop. Cadaver workshops are an important part of surgical training, as they allow surgeons to work on new techniques with actual body structures, but without the risk.
Dr. Lo’s lecture was on the craniocervical junction, which is the area where the skull meets the cervical (neck) spine. This small space contains the brainstem, the top of the spinal cord and several important nerves and blood vessels, making it one of the most delicate areas for surgeons to operate on.
Surgeons usually operate on this area by going through the back of the skull, but they can also access this junction from the front; traditionally going through the mouth, or with fairly new methods of going through the nose or neck. In his lecture, Dr. Lo taught attendees all three methods of anterior access.
For the “transnasal” or “transcervical” approaches, the surgeon uses a tube to go through the nasal (nose) cavity or cervical (neck) soft tissue into the junction. Thin tiny cameras are passed through these tubes, which allow the surgeon to see inside the patient without making a large incision. Attendees then practiced these approaches in the hands-on workshop.
Dr. Lo also made it clear that this approach requires that surgeons have the appropriate training and experience in order to give their patients the best possible outcomes.