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Avoidance of Wrong-Level Thoracic Spine Surgery Using Sterile Spinal Needles

Scientific Paper

Chin KR1, Seale JCumming V.

Interested medical professionals can read through the full paper, also published in Clinical Spine Surgery, here.


A technical report.


The aim of the present study was to present an improvement on localization techniques employed for use in the thoracic spine using sterile spinal needles docked on the transverse process of each vertebra, which can be performed in both percutaneous and open spinal procedures.


Wrong-level surgery may have momentous clinical and emotional implications for a patient and surgeon. It is reported that one in every 2 spine surgeons will operate on the wrong level during his or her career. Correctly localizing the specific thoracic level remains a significant challenge during spine surgery.


Fluoroscopic anteroposterior and lateral views were obtained starting in the lower lumbar spine, and an 18-G spinal needle was placed in the transverse process of L3 counting up from the sacrum and also at T12. The fluoroscopy was then moved cephalad and counting from the spinal needle at T12, the other spinal needles were placed at the targeted operating thoracic vertebrae. Once this was done, we were able to accurately determine the thoracic levels for surgical intervention.


Using this technique, the markers were kept in place even after the incisions were made. This prevented us from losing our location in the thoracic spine. Correctly placed instrumentation was made evident with postoperative imaging.


We have described the successful use of a new technique using spinal needles docked against transverse processes to correctly and reliably identify thoracic levels before instrumentation. The technique was reproducible in both open surgeries and for a percutaneous procedure. This technique maintains the correct spinal level during an open procedure. We posit that wrong-level thoracic spine surgery may be preventable.


Dr. Kingsley R. Chin, Founder of philosophy and practice of The LES Society and The LESS Institute

Dr. Kingsley R. Chin is a board-certified Harvard-trained Orthopedic Spine Surgeon and Professor with copious business and information technology exposure. He sees a niche opportunity where medicine, business and info. tech meet – and is uniquely educated at the intersection of these three professions. He has experience as Professor of Clinical Biomedical Sciences & Admissions Committee Member at the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University, Professor of Clinical Orthopedic Surgery at the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine at Florida International University, Assistant Professor of Orthopaedics at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, Visiting Spine Surgeon & Professor at the University of the West Indies, Mona, and Adjunct Professor of Clinical Biomedical Sciences at the University of Technology, Jamaica.

Learn more about Dr. Chin here and connect via LinkedIn.


Less Exposure Surgery (LES) is based on a new philosophy of performing surgery, leading the charge to prove through bench and clinical outcomes research that LES treatment options are the best solutions – to lowering the cost of healthcare, improving outcomes and increasing patient satisfaction. Learn more at LESSociety.org.

The LES Society philosophy: “Tailor treatment to the individual aiding in the quickest recovery and return to a pain-free lifestyle, using LES® techniques that lessen exposure, preserve unoffending anatomy and utilize new technologies which are safe, easy to adopt and reproducible. These LES®techniques lessen blood loss, surgical time and exposure to radiation and can be safely performed in an outpatient center. Less is more.” – Kingsley R. Chin, MD

About The LESS Institute

The LESS Institute is the world leader center of excellence in Less Exposure Surgery. Our safe, effective outpatient treatments help patients recover quickly, avoid expensive hospital stays and return home to their family the same day. Watch our patient stories, follow us on Facebook and visit TheLESSInstitute.com to learn more.


The above study utilized LES Technology from SpineFrontier – leading provider of LES Technologies and instruments – offering surgeons and patients superior technology and services.



Chin KR1, Seale JCumming V.

Author information

  1. Department of Clinical Biomedical Sciences, Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University †Institute for Modern and Innovative Surgery (iMIS) ‡LES Society, Fort Lauderdale, FL.

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