Dr. Michelson with his dogs.

Dr. Gary Michelson is well known around the world for his philanthropy, but previously he had a highly successful career as an orthopedic spinal surgeon. His mastery of his discipline, together with his inventive mind, led him to file several hundred patents over the course of his career.

His top medical innovations have led to powerful new medical technologies and therapies, and have changed lives all around the world for the better. Many of his inventions are used in surgeries today on a regular basis.

Let’s learn more about Dr. Gary Michelson’s far-reaching patents, and see the 5 top ways they have transformed medicine.

1. A Better Screw for Spinal Surgeries

Spinal tumors can be absolutely debilitating. Their symptoms can include agonizing pain, and the partial or total inability to work. Even if the cancer itself is eventually controlled, these back injuries can severely limit a person’s quality of life, and can lead to other adverse health outcomes.

To reinforce damaged spinal bone tissue, surgeons often use pedicle screws, a type of screw that inserts directly into the bone. However, these screws can loosen with time, leading to complications. Dr. Gary Michelson’s innovation was to create a new type of pedicle screw that secures the screw more permanently using cement augmentation. The cement is delivered through special holes in the screw called fenestrations.

This exquisite improvement on a relatively simple piece of technology is one of Dr. Gary Michelson’s top medical innovations, with the potential to improve the lives of millions of cancer patients in the decades to come.

Medtronic—the largest medical device manufacturer in the world—developed the screw for production, and in 2016 received clearance by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to use the screw in surgery.

2. The METRx MicroDiscectomy System

Spinal disc hernias are a common and frequently very painful injury. The traditional surgery to relieve a herniated disc—a procedure called a discectomy—requires the surgeon to strip a lot of muscle tissue away from the spine in order to reach the disc. This is quite painful itself. In fact, this muscle damage is the most painful part of recovery after disc surgery. And it has a long recovery time, since muscle heals very slowly.

Dr. Gary Michelson created technologies that enabled the developed of a solution called the METRx™ MicroDiscectomy System. METRx™ allows the surgeon to perform a discectomy with far less damage to the surrounding muscle. The surgeon uses a series a metal tubes to essentially separate the muscle like a pair of curtains, granting access to the injured disc without stripping the muscle fibers away from the spine.

The result: faster recovery times, less pain, and better outcomes for this very common spinal surgery!

3. The ZEVO Anterior Cervical Plate System

This futuristic sounding spinal plate system is designed to stabilize the neck (“cervical”) region of the spine during a spinal fusion, a process where two vertebrae of the spine are deliberately joined together.

The ZEVO System can be especially helpful in many different medical scenarios, including:

  • Spinal tumors
  • Traumatic spinal injuries such as fractures
  • Spinal deformities like scoliosis
  • Degenerative spinal disc disease
  • Previously failed spinal fusions

ZEVO is one of many Medtronic products based on Dr. Gary Michelson’s patents. Medtronic gained FDA clearance to use the ZEVO System in 2015, and today it is used in surgeries worldwide.

4. A Suite of Spinal Implants & Instruments

Another product developed from Dr. Gary Michelson’s inventions is called Spine Essentials. Spine Essentials is actually a suite of spinal implants and instruments designed to make common cervical (neck) spinal surgeries safer, more efficient, and more effective.

In an era of rising healthcare costs, a new technological suite to reduce the costs of spinal surgeries for hospitals, while simultaneously improving care for the patient, is a major step forward!

5. A Renewed Spirit of Innovation

Dr. Gary Michelson filed hundreds of patents over the course of his career, but perhaps his top medical innovation is not just one particular invention, but the spirit of innovation that he brought to his field.

With these innovations, Dr. Michelson’s contributions to medicine will long outlast his time in the operating room, and the number of patients he will help will be far more than he could ever even count in his lifetime, let alone operate on.

Today, Dr. Michelson continues his spirit of innovation through his charitable foundations. From animal welfare, to intellectual property education, to bioscience and medical research, Dr. Michelson’s passion is to bring people with different skill sets together, to create a spirit of innovation far larger than himself.