Surgeon says new surgery is like playing video game

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - For the first time MUSC doctors have performed a surgery that's a lot like a video game. The whole thing was done using a camera, monitor and small tools.

"I thought I was going to be the first in the hospital here at MUSC, until I find out I'm the first one in the state," said patient 21-year-old Jason Schroyer. "It made me a little nervous, but I had complete trust in the doctors."

Schroyer, a Hampton County firefighter and EMT, has a deformed spine that causes him to hunch forward. He has one more surgery to go before can stand a little taller.

"Which is great because it will allow me to do my job and stuff even better," Schroyer said.

The procedure is called video assisted thoroscopic surgery for the spine. Doctors use small handheld controllers, a camera to see inside and small surgical tools inserted in the body. Doctors can see on a TV screen where to make cuts or add bone or a metal rod to fix the curve. Dr. Barton Sachs compares it to playing Nintendo.

"They can play video games with their hands down, and they're not watching their hands while they're watching the TV," Sachs said. "They might be listening to music or having a conversation with a friend the whole time. All multi-tasking. That's in essence what this surgery is about."

Doctors make four small cuts in the side of the chest. Everything needed to fix the curve fits right there. Older surgical procedures to fix a curvature like this would include opening up the chest and pushing aside the lungs, ribs and heart. Once complete, it would leave a big scar across the chest, but the new method has minimal scarring.

Schroyer's twin brother Catlin Schroyer said he was in full support of the new procedure because doctors told him it would help his brother recover quickly.

"We plan on going to the first Carolina game on the second of September. I can't wait," Catlin Schroyer said.

Sachs said this type of video assisted surgery has been performed at MUSC by other surgeons working on the heart, chest, abdominal and orthopedic problems. This is the first time for the spine.

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