By Caitlin Lubinski
On a late Saturday night in May, an unlikely group of people’s paths crossed in a small operating room in the University Hospital of the West Indies. It was hot, and beads of sweat formed on the doctors’ foreheads above their surgical masks. Outside the O.R., the windows in the hallways were open to catch the breeze that filtered through the open slats. The hallway was quiet, filled only with an empty gurney with a canvas stretcher and wood handles. A clock on the wall covered in a metal casing methodically tracked the passing moments.
Inside the O.R., Dr. Kingsley R. Chin, an orthopaedic surgeon and founder of Less Exposure Surgery Specialists (LESS) Institute in Florida, and Dr. Carl A. Bruce, a consultant neurosurgeon at the University of the West Indies at Mona Jamaica, operated on a fifteen year old young woman. Around them stood Kevin Chappuis, a medical technology engineer from SpineFrontier, Inc, Harisha Buggam, a medical device distributor in the West Indies, and the University’s Chief of Anesthesiology, Dr. Harding. The operation, a high level, scoliosis case, required that surgeons correct a deformity in the patient’s spine.
Shinel Binns, the patient lying on the operating table, was fit and healthy -a normal young woman in every way, except for the severe curve in her spine. Standing up, Shinel’s legs were perpendicular to the ground, but at her waist, her torso and head angled sharply to the left, as if she had to fight gravity from pulling her left shoulder and head to the ground. A lifetime of trying to hold her head and torso upright to counterbalance her lumbar spine’s deformity had begun to create a curve in her thoracic spine.
Shinel lived in Saint Elizabeth Parish –a two hour journey from the hospital she was now being treated at in Kingston, Jamaica. She and her family had waited a long time for this moment. She would never have been able to afford an operation, but the donated time from the doctors, and over $500,000 in donated technology and personnel from SpineFrontier, as well as her community’s donation of $5,000, was making her operation possible.
Dr. Kingsley R. Chin had flown in earlier that day from the United States. Born and raised in Jamaica, he often returned to perform surgeries for people in need. As a pioneer in the Less Exposure Surgery (LES®) approach, Chin has devoted his life to refining and training others in a revolutionary approach to back surgery. The LES Philosophy of surgery pinpoints the problem, fixes it without collateral damage to surrounding tissues, and lets patients go home the same day.
A patient examination and X-Rays had confirmed to the doctors that Shinel’s original spinal deformity was in the lumbar spine. Because the thoracic curve was compensatory to keep her upright, Dr. Chin and Dr. Bruce operated on the most pronounced section of the curve (L1-L4). Dr. Chin used a Less Exposure Surgery (LES) approach, addressing the most pronounced section of the spinal curve (L1-L4) by inserting SpineFrontier’s S-LIFT® Lateral Interbody through a single, three inch incision at those levels to straighten out the spine. The surgeons then placed unilateral MISquito® Percutaneous Pedicle Screws to hold the straightened position.
The LES approach through the small incision on the side of the abdomen was low impact and saved Shinel the trauma of an incision through her stabilizing back muscles that could disrupt her strength. It also minimized the surgical trauma and maximized its effectiveness for a rapid and less painful recovery. This approach was especially important because it would allow a teenage girl to resume her daily activities more quickly. The surgeons expected that the thoracic curve would straighten itself over time. After the operation, Shinel already felt straighter and only had minimal superficial pain.
Harisha Buggum, the medical device distributor, had observed several other scoliosis corrections before through the Scotiabank Scoliosis Programme that provided implants at a greatly reduced cost to teenagers with scoliosis. But she had a renewed sense of excitement when talking about Shinel’s operation.
“I’ve never seen that kind of procedure done,” Harisha said, leaning forward and talking energetically, “This was different for us than our day-to-day [procedures]. In this surgery, you could see the technology changing the deformity and you could see the spine literally straightening up through the fluoro imaging. It’s good to know technology has turned in the direction so that someone with scoliosis can actually get a correction from Less Exposure Surgery.”
Harisha’s excitement over what she observed in the O.R. was just a small window into the many cases that Dr. Chin and his colleagues at the LESS Institute perform on a daily basis in the United States.
“This case is a perfect example of how Less Exposure Surgery can transform a patient’s life,” Chin commented.