West Michigan Neurosurgeon Honored for Minimally Invasive Surgical Invention

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New technique addresses pain from disc herniation or stenosis with speedier return to normal routine through minimally invasive surgical technique (TCMD) using devices created by Dr. David W. Lowry in West Michigan.

As a neurosurgeon performing spine surgery for over 12 years, David W. Lowry, MD, MBA, considers it his personal mission to return his patients to their normal routines quickly and with less pain. That commitment led Dr. Lowry, who practices in Holland at the Brain + Spine Center, to develop a less invasive surgical procedure for patients suffering from a herniated disc or bone spur in the neck where a nerve root is compressed.

Dr. Lowry holds two issued patents related to other procedures, and along with collaborators has multiple applications in process for the development of devices that allow physicians to perform a procedure called TransCorporal Micro Discectomy (TCMD). Because of this innovative work, earlier this month Dr. Lowry was named to the list of “Twenty Spine and Neurosurgeon Inventors to Know” by Becker’s Orthopedic, Spine & Pain Management Review, a national publication.

“Every day in my office we witness debilitating pain, numbness or tingling of the shoulder, arm, or hand from problems that actually are in the spine” said Dr. Lowry. “With TCMD, a trained surgeon can now alleviate these symptoms with minimal interference in patient lives, and with a rapid return to work or usual activity.” Dr. Lowry also emphasizes that TCMD is not appropriate for all patients with neck spine problems, and that generally patients should first undergo trials of non-surgical treatments, such as anti-inflammatories, physical therapy, or chiropractic care before considering surgery.

“Traditionally, surgical treatment for most patients with a herniated disc or bone spur in the neck required a cervical (neck) spinal fusion or disc replacement. These are highly effective procedures, and I still perform them as well, but unfortunately they often require between four to eight weeks of time off work or away from normal activities, especially for people with physical jobs. A posterior discectomy could avoid either fusion or disc replacement, but requires separating large muscles from the spine, which can be painful for several weeks, and may require retraction of either the spinal cord or the inflamed nerve root, which can be risky.”

The TCMD procedure uses a less invasive approach to getting the pressure off the nerve and the average patient is able to return to normal activity between 4 to 10 days after surgery.

With TCMD, the surgeon uses a special guide to make a ¼-inch channel through the bone while preserving the normal disc. The ruptured, or herniated, disc fragment or bone spur is removed through the channel. The surgeon then fills the channel with a dissolvable, FDA-approved “bone void filler,” a hollow plug filled with the patient’s bone marrow saved during the creation of the access channel. After the access channel heals, only the person’s own bone tissue remains. Because TCMD allows the patient to keep their functioning disc, no fusion is required, no motion is lost, and a person is not dependent lifelong upon an artificial disc implant.

Dr. Lowry continues to pursue development of additional innovative cervical spine treatments when he is not tending to patients through his Holland-based practice. “This has been a team effort. I’m blessed to work on this project with talented people, including Scott Tuinstra, PA, MS, a physician assistant, and also a great engineering team lead by Desmond O’Farrell.” Dr. Lowry has been a founder of several successful privately-held, early-stage, medical device companies dedicated to developing unique, commercially-viable, minimally-invasive and tissue-saving products and procedures for the treatment of spinal and neurological pathologies.

Photos are available upon request.
Interviews with Dr. Lowry in person or by phone are available by request.

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