The Pipeline

NASS 2011: Bringing you the latest in spine care

Sean Buckley

Here in Chicago, the North American Spine Society (NASS) is holding its annual scientific sessions. The Pipeline will be here the remainder of the week, reporting live on the latest issues facing the spine care community. 

Things are just getting started, but it's already clear that several issues will become front and center throughout the week: Health care reform, quality, controversies in spine, and the latest in minimally invasive spine surgery will show up during keynote sessions, instructional courses, paper presentations, vendor displays, and countless conversations among the attendees. Throughout the week we will aim to investigate each of these important areas to provide the latest findings and major takeaways.

Health care reform

Two major keynote presentations will speak to the most recent advancements emerging from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).  Karl Robe, FOX News commentator and former senior advisor to President George W. Bush, will be the NASS Presidential Guest Speaker this afternoon.  He is slated to discuss the latest in American politics concerning health care legislation. Later in the day, Dr. Raj Rao, a Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Neurosurgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin, will moderate a symposium on health care policy intiatives impacting spine care, emphasizing the role of integrated medicine to provide high quality, cost-effective care.


Already a major part of the health care reform conversations, quality will be emphasized as a major imperative for spine care providers. Sessions on data collection and the importance of establishing insightful quality metrics will likely be well attended as physicians prepare for increasing pressures on the value of care.

Controversies in spine

As in years past, some of the major controversies in spine will be debated, with the latest clinical data leveraged to suggest appropriate utilization of care. Treatments for vertebral compression fractures, adjacent segment disease, and the use of fusion for degenerative disc disease will be of special interest this year.

Minimally invasive surgery (MIS)

Naturally, clinical and technological innovation will be a major part of this year's sessions, as well. In addition to technical courses and abstract presentations on the different minimally invasive approaches being pioneered by physicians, new products will be introduced to the provider community. Just this morning, Medtronic issued a press release on a new procedure for minimally invasive spinal fusion, the MAST® MIDLF™.  This follows K2M's announcement at the end of October that five new products would be introduced, many offering novel ways of enabling minimally invasive surgery for complex spine cases. 

Many other vendors will likely be introducing other implants or tools that continue to push the envelop in MIS, and we will aim to highlight some of the more interesting products and clinical data that is made available.

These and other issues will be reported on throughout the week, all made available here on the Pipeline.

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