Dr Jefferson Webster
Dr Jefferson Webster Sarah Harvey

Surgeon leads way with new equipment

WITH the enthusiasm of a young boy showing off his new toy, Dr Jefferson Webster displays his state-of-the-art spine surgery kit.

"No other doctor in Australia has a percutaneous endoscopic system like this," he said proudly.

As someone unversed in medical science, the significance of what Dr Jefferson is displaying is somewhat lost on me.

But by the tone of his voice, you can tell that it's a big deal, something revolutionary.

And Ipswich patients are among the first in Australia to have access to it.

Inside the kit, there are various medical instruments, but the one that stands out is a large needle-looking device - the kind that might alarm a patient at the sight of it.

But the neurosurgeon, who now regularly operates out of St Andrews Hospital, said the device helped improve the efficiency of spinal procedures as well as patient recovery time.

The word 'percutaneous' means surgery is performed through a needle puncture, instead of a large skin incision.

The use of a needle allows the surgeon to access the disc through a tiny opening in the skin and through natural openings in the spine.

Once the needle is in place it is exchanged for a small tube that allows an endoscope to pass through it.

Endoscopic means that the surgeon performs the procedure through a channel in the endoscope, while watching with the endoscope camera.

Dr Jefferson said his scope was fitted with multiple channels which allowed him to put multiple surgical instruments down there to have two hands working at once.

"It makes surgery much more efficient," he said.

He said the procedure was previously done through minimally invasive surgery which required the use of an operating microscope.

"Those microscopes can cost $1million," he said. "Each one of these scopes only cost about $100,000.

"When we do the surgery now the incisions are smaller and cause less muscle injury, to keep everything working well for the future."

The new medical equipment is made by Karl Storz, a reputable German company which specialises in the production and sale of medical instruments and devices.

As managing director of the Centre for Minimally Invasive Neurosurgery and Spine Surgery, Dr Webster said he had been dealing with the company for years.

"I've used their products a lot already for when I do endoscopic brain surgery for various problems, as well as spine surgery," he said.

"Because of that business relationship, they approached me to see if I was interested in their new equipment which was coming out."

Dr Webster said he was immediately keen to work with the new medical instruments, as they were "just what he needed".

He said the equipment, which he had been using since January, was ideally used for patients with spinal problems which resulted in leg or back pain, such as a prolapsed disc.

He said the new equipment helped significantly reduce length of hospital stays for patients and allowed them to return to work earlier.

"Where patients may have required a couple of weeks to recover enough to go back to work, now they can potentially get back within a week."

Dr Webster said he was certain more doctors in Australia would adopt the new device into their surgical procedures.

The equipment has so far been used on seven patients in Ipswich - all with successful results.

"I approached St Andrew's Hospital with the offer to start a service out here where we could do spine surgery, with a view to extend the service," he said.

"To do that, we needed some instrumentation so I told them this new equipment was what I needed."

The endoscope camera devices are complimented with ultra-high definition televisions which allowed surgeons to see better too.

Dr Jefferson Webster is a consultant neurosurgeon who, in addition to Ipswich, consults at Greenslopes, Cleveland, Beenleigh and Toowoomba.

He has undertaken post fellowship subspecialty training in skull base and spine surgery using endoscopic techniques.

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