UAB Offers ‘Fast-Track’ Care for Brain and Spine Conditions

To provide care faster and more easily, UAB Neurosurgery at Greystone now offers a “fast-track” treatment model to patients with brain and spine conditions, including back pain and sciatic pain.

Treating neurological conditions often requires multiple tests and care from several specialists. So it helps to have an experienced neurosurgeon managing the case and making sure a treatment plan is developed and started quickly. That’s the goal of the fast-track care model at UAB Neurosurgery at Greystone.

Located south of Birmingham on U.S. Highway 280, the clinic is led by Thomas A. Staner, MD, who has more than 35 years of experience and is one of the few neurological specialists in the country who is board-certified in both neurosurgery and neurology. Patients also are seen by nurse practitioner Shannon Hall, CRNP, who has more than a decade of experience in operating rooms at UAB Hospital and a background in critical care and managing chronically ill patients with multiple conditions.

We spoke with the UAB Neurosurgery at Greystone team to find out more about fast-track evaluations and how the clinic treats patients with back pain.

What is a fast-track evaluation?

Our streamlined approach enables patients to receive proper care, in a comfortable setting, with access to all UAB Medicine specialists. Prompt imaging and referral to pain management care also are available. For patients who may require surgery, all or most of their evaluation will already be complete before the consultation with the operating neurosurgeon at the main UAB Medicine campus. This is a big timesaver for patients. For urgent matters, Dr. Staner can speak directly to the operating neurosurgeon, who will make the final decision about surgery. Patients also may receive care from their own specialists, and the UAB Medicine team will work closely with them. In short, we advocate and streamline the process for our patients so that they feel supported.

Why visit UAB Neurosurgery at Greystone instead of seeing the surgeon who will actually perform my surgery?

Following a distinguished neurosurgical career spent in operating rooms and clinics, Dr. Staner now dedicates his practice solely to the clinical evaluation and management of patients with neurosurgical problems, because not all cases require surgery. Dr. Staner and nurse practitioner Hall make sure that all appropriate diagnostic tests have been performed, that patients have tried non-surgical treatments prior to considering surgery, and that a thorough evaluation of symptoms has been performed. UAB Medicine strives to deliver the most effective care as quickly as possible. As part of that mission, UAB Neurosurgery at Greystone works very closely with the neurosurgical team at the main UAB Medicine campus.

I have not been treated for lower back pain before. Can I still schedule an appointment?

Yes. We are committed to putting patients first and will help develop an appropriate care plan with other specialties such as physical therapy, interventional pain management, and orthopaedics. If it is determined that surgery may be right, then we will refer the patient for further expert surgical evaluation.

What are some non-surgical treatments for back pain?

Many options are available, including:

  • Application of ice or heat
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and acetaminophen
  • Weight loss
  • A back brace
  • Physical therapy (for sciatic pain, no stretching of hamstrings)
  • Nerve stimulation therapy
  • Steroid injections

What is a disc herniation?

Disc herniation is when spinal disc material goes beyond its normal limits, into a space that may house the spinal cord and/or nerves. If it does not press against a nerve or the spinal cord, it may not cause symptoms in patients. However, pressure on neurological structures can cause pain, a buzzing sensation in the extremities, paralysis of a limb or the bladder, and other symptoms.

Can a disc herniation heal without surgery?

Yes. The inside of a disc contains a jelly-like substance made up mostly of water. Over time, the body tries to reabsorb that material, which can cause the disc to shrink (desiccate) and reduce the problem.

How do you know the difference between lower back muscle strain and something more serious?

Lower back muscle strains usually cause pain only in the lower back, without causing pain in the hips, buttocks, or legs. Muscle strains are often relieved by avoiding heavy activity. Strains can be tender to pressure, cause spasms, and create dull aches or intense localized pain. The condition often goes away in 4-6 weeks.

What can patients do to reduce or prevent back pain?

Muscles in the back and the body’s core get weaker over time. We encourage patients who suffer from lower back pain to be aware of activities that irritate their symptoms and to modify or avoid those activities. Exercising regularly can strengthen your core and help you lose weight, both of which can make your back stronger. Finally, if you are a smoker, we urge you to quit, because cigarette smoking can lead to increased back pain and other health problems.

UAB Neurosurgery at Greystone is conveniently located south of Birmingham just off of U.S. Highway 280. To learn more about the clinic’s services or to make an appointment, click here.

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