FirstHealth of the Carolinas

Back Surgery Without a 6-inch Scar

Inspired by techniques that allow surgeons to remove brain tumors without opening the skull Dr. Charles Haworth the same idea could help people needing spine surgery.

Working with an international team for more than 16 years, Dr. Charles Haworth overcame those challenges by using three-dimensional images and new computer navigation software that allow neurosurgeons to guide surgical tools exactly where they need to be, without the need for a long incision.

Since September 2012, Dr. Haworth has been using this innovation at Moore Regional Hospital to treat patients with spinal stenosis, ruptured discs and vertebrae that have slipped out of place.

Dr. Haworth has performed this and similar procedures on more than 1,000 patients. His innovation is called spinal navigation technology.

In addition to complex software and real-time three-dimensional images, the technology uses a pencil-like pointing device to map the spine in a major advancement that works like the GPS navigation used in vehicles and cell phones.

During the procedure, the surgeon places the pointing device at various locations along the patient’s skin directly above the spine. The device transmits these locations to a computer, which maps each point onto three-dimensional video images of the spine.

Complex software compares the real-time images with previous CT scans that were used to create the plan for surgery. In this way, the computer guides, or helps navigate, the physician to the precise area needing repair. From there, surgery involves tiny cameras and tools that are common to many surgeries today.

Research shows that this type of surgery reduces the risk of infection and need for blood transfusions.

Dr. Haworth is a member of the FirstHealth UNC Neurosurgery team. The practice is located in the Pinehurst Surgical building across Memorial Drive from the main entrance to FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital in Pinehurst. All four of the neurosurgeons associated with the practice—Carol M. Wadon, M.D.; Bruce P. Jaufmann, M.D.; Larry Van Carson, M.D.; and Dr. Haworth—are board certified and are part of the clinical faculty at the UNC School of Medicine. For information on how to make an appointment with any of the neurosurgeons, call (800) 213-3284.

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