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Meet Minimally Invasive Spine Surgeon

Kurt Eichholz, MD, FACS

From a young age, Dr. Eichholz was always interested in science and the human body. When Dr. Eichholz was an Undergraduate, many people were pre-medical students, so Dr. Eichholz obtained his Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) license to make sure he could handle being around sick people or traumatic situations. That led to a job as a Nursing Assistant in the Neurosurgical ICU at our University. Dr. Eichholz spent a lot of time with nurses, residents, and neurosurgeons, which introduced him to medicine and also to neurosurgery.

When Dr. Eichholz ended up going to medical school, he tried to keep an open mind in terms of what field he wanted to specialize in, but was already interested in neurosurgery. After graduation from medical school and a residency in neurosurgery, Dr. Eichholz became very focused on spine surgery in general.

He was lucky enough to train under Dr. Matthew Howard and Dr. John VanGilder at the University of Iowa, and was able to learn from some of the best spinal surgeons in the country, including Dr. Vincent Traynelis, Dr. Timothy Ryken, and Dr. Patrick Hitchon, and then completed a fellowship with Dr. Richard Fessler.

Successful Outcomes

Aligned Expectations

Dr. Eichholz ensures that it’s not just about surgery next week, but understanding the next nine to twelve months, or more, of your recovery from that surgery. It’s important for patients to have appropriate expectations about symptoms and recovery time.

Dr. Kurt Eichholz

Dr. Kurt Eichholz

Fellowship-trained in

Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

One of the things that sets Dr. Eichholz apart is that he is one of the few physicians who is fellowship-trained in minimally invasive and complex spine surgery. His goal is to try to avoid surgery when possible and, when surgery is indicated, to try to do the least invasive surgery that gets the best possible result for that patients’ pathology. He tries to avoid doing fusions, except for pretty strict criteria, and tries to make sure that the patients have the best outcome in terms of relief of their pain without having to go through unnecessary additional levels or unnecessary surgical interventions.

There are papers published about the advantages of minimally invasive procedures, including decreased narcotics, decreased hospital stay, decreased blood loss and most importantly, decreased infection rates. Dr. Eichholz has co-authored a paper that shows our infection rate is significantly lower when using minimally invasive techniques.

Patient Education is

Paramount to Successful Outcomes

The key thing to successful outcomes is spending a lot of time talking to the patient, examining them, and getting a real feel for what their specific symptoms are. Dr. Eichholz shows patients their specific MRI. Dr. Eichholz will show you, for example, what a normal spinal level looks like and what your level is at; maybe that L4-5 has horrible stenosis. Dr. Eichholz wants you to understand what the goal of surgery is and make sure that you understand that the goal is to decompress that level. When patients have an understanding of what the imaging shows and how that correlates with their symptoms, then you’ll have realistic expectations about the surgical intervention and the post-operative course.

Dr. Eichholz spends a lot of time with patients, making sure that they understand what we’re talking about. Dr. Eichholz explains what’s involved after the procedure, because some symptoms will improve quicker than others. Dr. Eichholz wants to make sure you understand the post-operative course, if you’re having an out-patient procedure or if you’re going to be in the hospital for one, two or three days, and make sure you understand the things that are going to happen during their hospital stay if that’s necessary. Dr. Eichholz also likes to make sure they understand the first few weeks of surgery and their limitations in terms of lifting restrictions or activity restrictions, and then the full recovery course.

Dr. Eichholz will make sure that it’s not just about surgery next week, but understanding the next nine to twelve months, or more, of your recovery from that surgery. It’s important for patients to have appropriate expectations about symptoms and recovery time.

Dr. Kurt Eichholz
Dr. Kurt Eichholz
Dr. Kurt Eichholz

When Dr. Kurt Eichholz opened St. Louis Minimally Invasive Spine Center in 2013, it became the only practice in the area that is exclusively dedicated to minimally invasive spinal surgeries, including discectomies, spinal decompressions, lumbar fusions, and artificial disk replacements.

Minimally invasive techniques give patients with spinal conditions alternative options that involve less blood loss, shorter hospital stays, and fewer narcotic requirements than traditional open-surgery methods. Dr. Eichholz specialized in the treatment of degenerative spine diseases, disc herniations, lumbar and cervical stenosis, spondylolisthesis, adult degenerative scoliosis, and peripheral nerve surgery. Additionally, he is on the few surgeons in the country who treat basilar invagination. He is board-certified in neurosurgery and fellowship-trained in minimally invasive and complex spine surgery.

While his practice is dedicated to minimally invasive surgery, Dr. Eichholz sometimes receives patients whose conditions are too complex to be treated through minimally invasive methods, or those who may not require surgical intervention at all. In these cases, he is trained and equipped to perform alternative treatment options, and he works with several other providers, including pain management physicians and physical therapists, to get patients the most appropriate treatment for their conditions.

St. Louis Minimally Invasive Spine Center is a premier choice for patients who are looking for one-on-one attention when addressing their spinal surgery needs. The practice is small and personalized, meaning patients get Dr. Eichholz’s complete focus and always hear from him personally when it comes to matters like imaging results. Dr. Eichholz sees patients with or without physician referrals, and he has privileges at Mercy Hospital St. Louis, St. Anthony’s Medical Center, and Frontenac Surgery Center.

Disclaimer: Article Used With St. Louis Magazine’s permission.

Dr. Kurt Eichholz Operating
Doctors with model of a spine
Doctor explaining spine health

Spinal Procedure Considerations

Training and experience matter

Located in St. Louis, MO, in private practice at St. Louis Minimally Invasive Spine Center, Dr. Eichholz is one of the few fellowship-trained minimally invasive spine surgeons in the Midwest.

Dr. Eichholz specializes in minimally invasive treatment of degenerative spine disease, including spinal stenosis, disc herniations, neoplasms, trauma and deformity. He treats lumbar, thoracic and cervical disc herniations, fractures, tumors, meningiomas, neoplasms, stenosis, slip, spondylolisthesis, instability, and fractures. He is one of the few surgeons who treats adult degenerative scoliosis utilizing minimally invasive techniques, and also performs endoscopic spinal surgery. He also is an expert in the surgical treatment of abnormalities of the cranio-vertebral junction.

Dr. Eichholz earned a bachelor’s degree in biology at Saint Louis University, and later earned his MD degree with distinction in research at SLU as well. He completed his residency in Neurosurgery at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. He then completed a fellowship in Minimally Invasive and Complex Spinal Surgery at the University of Chicago.

He previously served as Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, and then served as Associate Professor of Neurological Surgery and Director of the Neurosurgery Spine Program at Saint Louis University. He has published extensively on spine disorders, spine biomechanics, and minimally invasive spinal surgery techniques. Dr. Eichholz is one of the few fellowship-trained Minimally Invasive Spine Surgeons in the Midwest.

Outside of the hospital, Dr. Eichholz is married to Dr. Amy Eichholz, a practicing obstetrician/gynecologist. They have two children, Eric and Elizabeth. His outside interests include playing guitar, although not as much as he would like, and classic cars.

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