Brain and Spine Surgery

The Brain and Spine Institute offers several new, advanced treatment options for life-threatening brain tumors, aneurysms and strokes as well as for severe back pain and other spinal conditions. These less-invasive procedures generally are safer than prior options, can offer immediate pain relief and require less recovery time. Listed below are a few of the surgeries available for brain and spine diseases and injuries.

Balloon Kyphoplasty

Neurosurgeons at the Brain and Spine Institute offer a new procedure for the correction of spinal fractures due to osteoporosis. The procedure is called balloon kyphoplasty, which is a minimally invasive procedure that can be performed under either local or general anesthesia. It is designed to repair the fracture and restore the vertebra to the correct position. The procedure has been demonstrated to significantly reduce back pain, correct spinal deformity and improve quality of life by allowing patients to return to activities of daily living.

“Osteoporosis is painful and debilitating—making walking, eating, sleeping and even breathing painful and difficult,” said Neurosurgeon James Killeffer, MD. “Traditional treatment for spinal fractures includes extended bed rest, pain medication and back braces, all of which can relieve pain, but do not address the deformity caused by the fracture.”

After Balloon Kyphoplasty, patients have less pain and experience an increased ability to return to such simple everyday activities as walking, reaching, bending and lifting. In addition to the physical improvements, patients also reported improved mental health, vitality, social function and emotional health.

View the full article on Balloon Kyphoplasty.


UT Medical Center neurosurgeons perform surgery on more than 1,000 patients each year. Surgeries are performed on a wide range of neurosurgical problems including spinal disorders such as ruptured discs and spinal stenosis, brain and spinal tumors and aneurysms of the arteries in the brain.

UT Medical Center patients with an urgent neurosurgical problem can be evaluated, scanned and taken to the operating room, if necessary, within a matter of minutes after the initial assessment.

Spinal Cord Injuries

Neurosurgeons at UT Medical Center, the area’s only Level I Trauma Center, serve as consultants to the trauma team, evaluating and treating more than 1,000 patients per year with brain and/or spinal injuries.

UT Medical Center patients with an urgent neurosurgical problem can be evaluated, scanned and taken to the operating room, if necessary, within a matter of minutes after the initial assessment. This is particularly important for patients with traumatic intracerebral hemorrhage who must be taken to the operating room immediately for life-saving surgery.

The UT Brain and Spine Institute neurosurgeons evaluate and treat more than 250 patients per year with spinal column and/or spinal cord injuries. Many of these patients require surgical stabilization of fractured, unstable spines. The neurosurgeons have broad experience with a variety of advanced techniques for surgical stabilization of the spine. These techniques also are applicable to the management of degenerative disease of the spine.

Spinal Disorders

Most people experience at least one episode of back pain during their lifetime. In the fall of 2004, the office of the U.S. Surgeon General issued it’s first-ever report on the nation’s bone health. It warned that by 2020, one in two Americans over the age of 60 would be at risk for fractures—primarily in the wrist, hip or spine—from osteoporosis or low bone mass. Even today, back pain is second only to colds and upper respiratory infections as the main reason people visit a physician. This pain typically is treated successfully by the patient’s primary care physician. Neurosurgical intervention may be required for patients who fail to respond to this conservative treatment and who are found to have a surgical problem upon subsequent examination.

Surgery for degenerative diseases of the spine (herniated discs, spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis) represents 60 to 70 percent of the surgery performed by neurosurgeons. Brain and Spine Institute neurosurgeons are specialists in the management of surgical diseases of the spine.

The most commonly performed spinal procedures include the following:

  • Microdiscectomy for the excision of a ruptured disc.
  • Laminectomy for spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal).
  • Fusion for instability of the spine such as for patients with spondylolisthesis (slippage of one vertebra on another). This often is performed in conjunction with discectomy and/or laminectomy.
  • Excision of spinal tumors.

UT Medical Center neurosurgeons perform outpatient surgery for lumbar and cervical herniated discs using microsurgical techniques developed by neurosurgeons and initially applied to intracranial surgery. These techniques minimize the surgical trauma and pain, allowing approximately 90 percent of patients undergoing lumbar disc surgery to go home the same day and dramatically shortening the time to return to work.