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Japanese Neurosurgeon Travels to RiverView to Observe Innovative Spine Surgery

Hospital news | Wednesday, December 11, 2019

RiverView Health was the site of international learning Dec. 4th as Japanese Neurosurgeon Dr. Phyo Kim observed RiverView Neurosurgeon Dr. Hamid Abbasi conduct an Oblique Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusion (OLLIF). Dr. Abbasi and his practice partner, Orthopaedic Spine Surgeon Dr. Sunny Kim, are two of only about 30 surgeons in the world who offer the revolutionary spine surgery.

Dr. Phyo Kim is the chief professor of the Department of Neurosurgery, Dokkyo (Japan) Medical University and a neurosurgery specialist at the Tokyo Neurological Center. He heard about the OLLIF procedure at a lecture in Seoul, Korea, by Dr. Sunny Kim.

Increased Safety, Shorter Recovery

OLLIF is a minimally invasive procedure done to treat back pain often related to degenerative disc disease, herniated disc, spondylolisthesis, scoliosis, and spinal stenosis. OLLIF replaces surgery that used to take up to ten hours and up to five days of hospital stay with an outpatient surgery taking less than an hour. Compared to open, traditional spine surgery, OLLIF does not require removal or cutting of any bone or ligament structures. Only a small (less than the size of a quarter) skin incision is required in which the diseased disc is removed. The smaller incision results in less muscle and tissue damage, allowing for a faster, less painful recovery. It may take patients who have had open surgery up to six months to fully recover, leaving muscles weak from the long period of nonuse. With OLLIF, 96 percent of patients are up walking in the first 24 hours before going home, according to Dr. Abbasi.

Increased patient safety and shortened recovery time are two of the reasons Dr. Phyo Kim said he hopes to introduce and implement OLLIF to the Japanese market in the next few years.

“I'm here in Minnesota to learn Dr. Abbasi’s technique,’’ Dr. Phyo Kim shared. “This is a really leading-edge technique…It’s something you (RiverView) should be very proud of…I’m impressed with the team you have here. They have good expertise in what they’re doing.’’

Dr. Phyo Kim is one of many surgeons trained by Dr. Abbasi in OLLIF. As pioneers in the procedure, Drs. Abbasi and Sunny Kim have also had papers published and written curriculum on the procedure.

Through their practice together, they have done more OLLIFs than any other surgeons in the world. Dr. Abbasi, who has done thousands of spine surgeries in his career, is approaching his 1,000th OLLIF. He has done about one-third of the procedures at RiverView and the others in Alexandria and the Twin Cities.

High-End Care in a Rural Setting

“What I’m very happy about here in Crookston is that RiverView has been doing OLLIF from my start here,’’ he said. Drs. Abbasi and Sunny Kim started their RiverView practices in 2012. “I was an early adapter of OLLIF, and we have a fantastic team here that really help us to do this surgery very efficiently. As a matter of fact, we are doing this surgery, giving the same kind of care here as in the Cities, and are on the forefront of development of this procedure right here in Crookston.’’

Fortunately, Dr. Abbasi enjoys rural life as opposed to big city life, which is one of the reasons he practices in Crookston.

“Crookston is one of my favorite places to perform the surgery,’’ he shared. “I really believe high-end care should not be limited to big cities. I want to bring that care to the rural area. My heart is in the rural area.

“I want to provide this type of care to hard-working farmers, and send them back to the farm to let them do their job and get on with their lives.’’

OLLIF is also a safer option for older patients who previously were told they were not candidates for risky, traditional surgery. Dr. Abbasi’s oldest OLLIF patient was 93 and went on to live five more pain-free years before passing away from an unrelated issue.

“You don’t have to live with pain anymore,’’ Dr. Abbasi shared. “OLLIF has changed the equation. All of a sudden, we have a choice for the patient that had no choice before...You can get your life back.’’

For more information on OLLIF, contact the RiverView Specialty Clinic at 218-281-9553.

Pictured (left to right): Drs. Phyo Kim and Hamid Abbasi