Patient of Dr. Paul C. McCormick

Nationally Recognized Spine Care

The Spine Hospital at The Neurological Institute of New York is dedicated to the evaluation and treatment of patients suffering from disorders of the spine and spinal cord. Our team of clinical professionals responds to individual patient needs by providing innovative non-operative & operative treatments.

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Of Spider Webs and Spinal Cords: Dr. McCormick’s Rare Surgery

Dec. 8, 2017

Spinal cord exposed with arachnoid web indicated with blue arrows
Spinal cord exposed with arachnoid web indicated with blue arrows

What do spider webs have to do with spinal cords? The answer can be found in a thin, gauzy layer of tissue, called the arachnoid membrane, which surrounds and protects the spinal cord.

Scientists who first discovered this membrane gave it a name based on the Greek word for spider, “Arachne,” as it resembled a spider’s web.

In rare cases, a small section of the membrane, which surrounds the spinal cord, can thicken and form a dense band called an arachnoid web. This web is far more intricate than a regular spider web, though, which stays mostly in a two-dimensional plane. This web of tissues and fibers is in three dimensions, and it is connected to a living spine.

An arachnoid web can put undue pressure on the spinal cord and lead to permanent damage. Depending on the location of the arachnoid web, symptoms might include pain, numbness and tingling in the arms or legs, or difficulty walking. Arachnoid webs are rare and difficult to diagnose. Their symptoms can be similar to other problems such as spinal cord herniation.

In a video supplement published recently in the Journal of Neurological Surgery, Dr. Paul McCormick demonstrates the identification and surgical removal of an arachnoid web. Dr. McCormick begins his video by showing the MRI images that led to his patient’s diagnosis. Then he demonstrates the surgery using a microscope and tiny tools (microsurgery) that he uses to identify and remove the arachnoid web.

The video shows the surgeon’s painstaking treatment of the many membranes and layers that surround the spinal cord.

Dr. McCormick narrates the video: he gives tips for separating layers; he points out potential complications; he demonstrates how to find the best “line of excision” for the arachnoid web.

When the arachnoid web is finally removed, it is revealed to be a wobbly little bit of tissue only about half the width of a finger. But removing the tiny web has a big effect–it resolves the patient’s symptoms.

This video is part of a series published by Journal of Neurological Surgeryand they are intended to inform and educate other neurosurgeons, and physicians who treat these kinds of patients. Learn more about the series here.

Neurosurgeons, patients and any other interested parties can watch Dr. McCormick’s video of arachnoid web surgery here. Be aware though that this is a graphic and close-up view of surgery. It should be viewed only by interested adults, and with caution.

Learn more about Dr. McCormick on his bio page here.

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North American Spine Society Features Dr. Evan Johnson in ‘Ask the Experts’ Video

Dec. 1, 2017


Tandem Spinal Stenosis Poses Unique Challenges, Says Dr. Evan Johnson at NASS 2017

Nov. 10, 2017


Recent Patient Stories

‘Find a Doctor You Can Trust’: Meet Dr. McCormick’s Patient, Tom

Nov. 17, 2017

170501_Titan_Holliday_1368Tom Holliday didn’t know he had a back problem.

He did “tweak” his back now and then, he says, but it was never a big deal. “You take a week off and it’s fine.” He wrestled and played football and tennis in high school. After that he remained very active, cross training, playing golf and tennis and skiing. And he’s always worked out three to five days a week on average.

Then one day, when he was 52, he strained his back during a workout, and this time felt different. “The location of the pain was different,” he says. “The magnitude was far different. The recovery period never really happened.”

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A Strong Result for Candace, Dr. McCormick and Dr. Angevine’s Patient

Oct. 27, 2017


The Future Is Bright Again for Columbia Football Star

Oct. 6, 2017

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