Norton Leatherman Spine surgeon specializes in new minimally invasive spine fusion procedure

Lateral interbody spine fusion procedure can treat leg or back pain faster and with a potentially quicker recovery than traditional surgery.

Joseph L. Laratta, M.D., is the newest orthopedic spine surgeon on staff with Norton Leatherman Spine. He brings experience performing an innovative minimally invasive technique called extreme lateral interbody fusion, or XLIF surgery.

XLIF is a minimally invasive procedure that reaches the diseased part of the spine from the patient’s side (or laterally). That approach allows the surgeon to avoid major muscles in the back. Because the procedure requires a smaller incision than open surgery, patients may experience less pain, less risk of postoperative infection and a quicker recovery.

Dr. Laratta completed three fellowships in spine treatment after doing his residency at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City.

Why did you choose to become a physician? Why spine surgery?

Unfortunately, I believe that spine surgery has developed a poor reputation over the past half-century. It was not uncommon for open spinal fusions to take over 10 hours in the operating room — leaving patients with the unfortunate predicament of remaining in debilitating pain or undergoing a painful and risky procedure. My goal in life is to make that predicament disappear.

With the advancements in minimally invasive techniques, I believe that we can make a real difference in the surgical outcomes of our patients. With minimally invasive techniques, most surgeries are completed within one to two hours, and a significant number of my patients are discharged home the following day.

Norton Leatherman Spine

Norton Leatherman Spine in Greater Louisville and Southern Indiana offers world-renowned care from surgeons who are recognized nationally and internationally for their innovation, expertise and skill.

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Is there something about you some of your patients would be surprised to learn?

I originally applied to medical school with the intention of becoming a pediatrician. I still have a calling for pediatrics and caring for children. This is likely why I developed such a passion for pediatric scoliosis.

What is your No. 1 health tip you share with patients, friends and family?

The best health tip to prevent future spine problems is abstinence from smoking. Smoking is associated with microvascular damage, which significantly affects the health of our intervertebral discs and causes irreversible damage.

Why did you choose Norton Healthcare for your career?

Norton Leatherman Spine is a world-renowned institution for spine care, and it is truly an honor to be offered a position at such an esteemed establishment. Although the center has been quite successful in treating the entire spectrum of spinal pathology for many years, I hope to fill a gap in the current Leatherman Spine surgical (capabilities) with a focus in minimally invasive techniques and lateral approaches to the spine. It is my belief that minimally invasive techniques will allow for spine surgery with significantly less pain, fewer infections and quicker recovery.


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