University of South Florida

Health News

USF Health, Tampa General Hospital offer alternative for spine surgery

There has been a steady rise in the number of minimally invasive spine (MIS) surgeries in the past decade, mostly attributed to advanced MIS techniques, improvements in pain management, and a variety of economic reasons as well.
Patrick Kim, MD, assistant professor and endoscopic spine surgeon for the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine Department of Neurosurgery and Brain Repair, recently joined USF Health as a fellowship-trained endoscopic spine surgeon and provides one of the newest minimally invasive option for patients who potentially need spine surgery.  Dr. Kim said he puts a new meaning to the phrase “I’ve got your back.”
Endoscopic spine surgery is known to be an extremely safe procedure.  An endoscope, a medical device with a light attached, is used to look inside a body cavity or organ.  With spinal procedures, Dr. Kim uses an incision smaller than a dime guide in the device to look at the specific area of the spine that needs repair.   Smaller incisions significantly reduce the likelihood of infection and other iatrogenic conditions, conditions caused because of medical examination or treatment. These smaller incisions also mean smaller cuts, so less damage, to back muscles, leading to less pain and faster recovery for patients.
Dr. Kim said although endoscopic spine surgery is still relatively new, it has become increasingly popular for two key reasons: faster recovery time, and lower likelihood of wound infection and associated problems.  Most patients go home the same day following their procedure if no other co-morbidities exist.  The chances of patients experiencing complications following their surgery is “nearly zero,” Dr. Kim said.  

Dr. Kim Portrait

Patrick Kim, MD, assistant professor and endoscopic spine surgeon for the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine Department of Neurosurgery and Brain Repair.

Another key benefit of the procedure is the reduced need for opioids for pain management, he said.  
Although endoscopic spine surgery is safe and effective, it should also be a last option for patients.  Dr. Kim only recommends surgery after thorough evaluations of the patient and their symptoms.  If surgery isn’t necessary, he’ll often refer patients to the chiropractic practice at USF Health or injection treatment. 
“Any type of spine surgery should be a last option,” he said. “My job is to evaluate the patient and point them in the right direction.”
Endoscopic spine surgery is used to cure many types of chronic lower back and hip conditions.  Dr. Kim said two of the most common conditions treated by the procedure are:
-       Herniated disc – when a fragment of the disc nucleus is pushed out of the ring-shaped canal into the spinal canal through a tear or rupture.
-       Spinal stenosis – narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower part of the back, which can cause pressure on the spinal cord or the nerves that go from the spinal cord to the muscles.


The head of an endoscope is smaller than a dime.  Smaller incisions mean less muscle damage, lower chance of infection, and faster recovery post surgery. 

Dr. Kim started to familiarize himself with the procedure during his seven-year neurosurgery residency at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.  He found the procedure was offered more internationally than in the United States.  He spent time with surgeons in Asia to learn everything he could about the procedure.  When he returned to the U.S., he did an additional year of fellowship training at the University of Washington Medical Center and Harborview Medical Center to become a fellowship-trained endoscopic spine surgeon.
With this innovative approach to spine surgeries, Dr. Kim decided to build his practice at USF Health and Tampa General Hospital, the primary teaching hospital of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.  His goals for the department extend beyond patient care.
“My goal is to train more U.S.-based spine surgeons who have the capability to do these procedures,” he said. 

Story, photos and video by Freddie Coleman

Return to article listing

About Health News

USF Health News highlights the great work of the faculty, staff and students across the four health colleges – Morsani College of Medicine, College of Public Health, College of Nursing and Taneja College of Pharmacy – and the multispecialty physicians group. USF Health, an integral part of the University of South Florida, integrates research, education and health care to reach our shared value - making life better.