Today marks the 300th day of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Recently active cases are elevated. Hospitalizations had reached a sustained new high over the past 3 weeks but fortunately now are stabilizing.  2 of the COVID-19 vaccines have begun distribution in the elderly and those with comorbidities.  At least 2 more different types of vaccines are expected in the next few months. The exceptional response to this challenge has been inspiring.

Elective spine surgery slowed again in December with this increase in the COVID-19 virus.  Currently most of spine surgery is done as an outpatient with no hospital stay. During the past year the practice of spine surgery has shown that many more surgeries may be done as an outpatient without an overnight stay.  Outpatient surgery may give the needed relief if you are having significant daily pain from neck or back or radiculopathy of arm or leg.  Today outpatient spinal surgery proceeds with the lowest probability of exposure to COVID-19.  The best facility for treatment today would be one where no COVID-19 patients have been treated and patients are tested before surgery.  Outpatient Surgery Centers that have not treated Covid 19 patients may be the best  opportunity to avoid any exposure to the virus.  Regarding surgical recommendation for someone who has daily pain and limitation of daily activities related to neck or back problems I highly recommend consideration of outpatient surgery for you or family member at a facility as described that has the lowest probability of COVID-19 exposure.

In the office we have full capability for visits as well as we continue to offer telehealth communication for office appointments and all after hour needs.  At the office the seating arrangement allows for social distancing.  Masks are required and the visit is restricted to the patient and one companion.  The office does have video calling for office visits and will continue to offer telehealth visits for anyone who does not wish to come to the office for an appointment.  All medical insurances including Medicare have extended their rulings regarding charges for office visit codes applied to telehealth visits.  The office will continue to see anyone with an emergency need related to surgery or an acute exacerbation of their back, neck, or radiculopathy pain.

To Paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr. Now more than ever we cannot walk alone. We must walk together and take care of each other. This has been a long road. Thank you for walking with each other. Please call the office to connect with the doctor or answer a clinical question.

We are stronger together. All the best!

GUY R. FOGEL MD Orthopedic Spine Surgeon San Antonio Texas

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