History of Back Surgery in the United States

Doctor inspecting an x-ray to determine if back surgery is needed | NASAMRI Naples Florida

Back surgery has a rich and evolving history in the United States, marked by remarkable advancements and challenges. In this two-part blog series, we will dive into the journey of back surgery, tracing its roots from ancient practices to modern innovations. Part 1 will explore the early developments up to the mid-20th century and highlight key milestones and figures.

When did back surgery begin?

The roots of back surgery trace back to ancient civilizations, where primitive techniques like trepanation were used to treat spinal disorders. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans employed various methods, often with crude instruments and a limited understanding of anatomy.

Fast forward to the 19th century, we saw significant strides in surgical techniques and understanding of spinal anatomy. Doctors like Dr. Paul Reclus performed some of the earliest documented spinal surgeries, focusing primarily on traumatic injuries and deformities.

Around 1916, a neurosurgeon from New York published a textbook on his cases. The textbook is called “Diagnosis and Treatment of Surgical Diseases of the Spinal Cord and Its Membranes”. This textbook instructs readers on how to perform surgical procedures on the spinal cord and spine for different disorders and conditions. In the 1960s and 1970s, Neurosurgeons made few contributions to spinal disorders and most were by orthopedic surgeons.

In the early 20th century, there was the emergence of neurosurgery as a distinct medical specialty. Dr. Harvey Cushing, the father of modern neurosurgery, made notable contributions to spinal surgery, refining techniques for tumor removal and decompression procedures.

During the mid-20th century, a turning point with the advent of new technologies and surgical approaches was happening. The development of X-ray imaging revolutionized diagnostics and surgical planning. Surgeons like Dr. Paul Harrington pioneered instrumentation for scoliosis correction as well.

Despite these advances, back surgery faced criticism and skepticism due to the inconsistent outcomes and risks of complications. Invasive procedures often led to calls for different treatments and approaches

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