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RR medical center expands services

RIO RANCHO – UNM’s Sandoval Regional Medical Center is expanding its services with new forms of surgery for spinal problems and breast cancer patients.

Since January, the Rio Rancho hospital has been offering a form of minimally invasive spinal surgery that can be performed under a local anesthetic, reduces patient discomfort and avoids the need for an overnight hospital stay, according to Dr. Howard Yonas, chairman of the UNM Department of Neurosurgery. Yonas and his colleagues say the endoscopic surgery has been used in South Korea and some European countries but is not yet widely available in this country.

“That’s one of the exciting things that we’re bringing to this,” said Dr. Evan Rivers, assistant professor in UNM’s Department of Neurosurgery.

They are looking at using the surgical technique as an option for patients suffering from sciatica, or the severe leg and buttock pain that is caused by a bulging, or herniated disc in the lower back.

The endoscopic program was made possible through a $2.5 million donation to UNM Hospital last year by Dr. Anthony Yeung, who developed tools and techniques for the endoscopic surgery at a private clinic in Phoenix.

It is part of a comprehensive program of spinal care UNM has developed that offers a range of medical and rehabilitative care for patients as well as surgery, said Dr. Fred Harrington, director of the UNM Endoscopic Spine center.


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He said SRMC was an ideal location for the endoscopic surgery because there was less pressure on the facilities than at the main UNM hospital in Albuquerque, which is the only hospital in the state able to handle the most serious trauma cases.

UNM has equipped an operating room at SRMC with the unique instruments needed for the endoscopic surgery and trained operating room nurses to assist with the procedures. About half a dozen patients have undergone the new technique since late January, Harrington said.

The Rio Rancho hospital will also soon be offering a wide range of surgical breast reconstruction procedures, including “free flap” surgery. The technique uses tissue from a different part of the patient’s body in breast reconstruction instead of relying on implants, according to Dr. Anna Voltura, Assistant Professor at UNM’s Department of Surgery, Division of Surgical Oncology.

Having the surgery available at SRMC gives patients in Rio Rancho and Sandoval County a choice, she said.