Dr. Ernest Braxton, MD, MBA, continues to serve as the only board-certified neurosurgeon in the Vail Valley. “Working with the VSON surgery practices in Vail, Edwards, Frisco, Middle Park and Crested Butte, Dr. Braxton serves the surgical needs of countless patients from across the Colorado High Country.”
Part of his trusted expertise comes in his relentless pursuit of new equipment and innovative procedures, the main objective being a better surgical experience and a shorter, less painful recovery process – with some patients able to resume activities after just a day in the hospital.
“I try to find procedures that are the least invasive as possible,” Braxton said. To that end, he’s been a pioneer in using robotic and computer-assisted surgical techniques as well as regional anesthesia, with a high-tech approach that is centered on faster recovery, and durable relief.
Innovative, adaptive-geometry technology for spinal fusion
Most recently, that includes his use of new spinal fusion devices with “adaptive geometry” – a brand-new, expandable fusion tool that is designed to be more easily integrated to a recovering spinal injury.
“The spine’s surface is not one size fits all. This device conforms better to accept a patient’s anatomy, making it less likely to fail, and leads to less pain,” he said.
The new adaptive geometry devices are also tiny – approximately 9 millimeters in size, expandable to 14 millimeters – meaning they can be surgically implanted and manipulated through very small incisions.
Braxton said the new devices, which are made of a titanium-bonded shell integrated with carbon fiber-styled PEEK (Polyether-ether-ketone), will be able to replace more traditional fusion devices which frequently cause metal-on-bone wear and fractures.
“They also allow a surgical technique that’s something like gardening through a picket fence or building a ship in a bottle,” he explained. “Rather than having extensive tissue disruption through an open surgery, which can be a painful process, we’re able to leave a lot of tissue in place, as the device is so small.”
Braxton employs a cannula, a tube just 18 millimeters wide, to insert the devices, and uses a high powered microscope to guide and place the adaptive geometry hardware.
Robotic and computer-assisted surgery to ensure perfect results
For these and other procedures, Braxton is now more frequently using robotic and computer-assisted surgical techniques to produce much more precise results – again, the end objective being faster healing and less postoperative pain.
“We use these systems to target and come up with the best solution to help stabilize the spine. The computer system also makes the results reproducible, every time, versus freehand surgery. The best surgeon is like a pro free-throw athlete, with 95% accuracy – this system can push that to 99%, which even the best surgeon can’t beat.”
During his 12 years of surgical practice, Braxton has spent much of his time continually working to explore new techniques and devices.
“I constantly read about new ideas in medical trade journals, and I recently lectured at a surgical society meeting in Aspen. To learn about the adaptive geometry devices, I flew to the manufacturer in Florida and learned more about it, even practicing the procedures. I also spent time in Phoenix taking robotic training.”
Braxton said he anticipates even more high-tech solutions, all of which are geared at improving outcomes.
“We’re going to see a big wave of technology in the spine space over the next five years. The only real limit will be cost, and we are always aware of being fiscally responsible. For many patients, most procedures have been covered by insurance, as well.”