MUSC surgeons today will use tiny video equipment to repair a debilitating spinal condition that 21-year-old Hampton resident Jason Schroyer has suffered with for nearly a decade -- the first surgery of its kind to be performed in the Palmetto State, hospital officials said.

Schroyer's abnormally curved spine left him stooped over with chronic back pain, unable to stand or sit comfortably for more than a short time. His pain grew in intensity this summer when Schroyer, an emergency medical technician and volunteer firefighter in Hampton and Allendale counties, began feeling numbness in his legs -- numbness that caused him to fall twice. Schroyer's supervisors worried about his safety and his ability to carry heavy equipment when responding to medical calls and fires.

"It was depressing," said the EMT who calls his job his passion. "It slowed me down. I couldn't do stuff I usually do. I was just staying inside the house. I knew my limits."

Doctors at the Medical University of South Carolina told Schroyer, who'd endured years of medication and physical therapy, that surgery was his last best hope for returning to his ambulance and firetruck. Schroyer, doctors concluded, was the ideal candidate for a minimally invasive spinal surgery that has not previously been done in South Carolina.

Dr. Barton Sachs, the case surgeon, said MUSC performs up to 75 surgeries a year to correct Scheuermann's Disease, a skeletal condition most common in young men, that causes the vertebrae to grow more like trapezoids than rectangles. The uneven growth causes the spine to be abnormally rounded.

The standard open surgery involves cutting a long line through the patient's abdomen and side before pushing aside the heart and lungs to reach the spine.

The endoscopic surgery to be performed Monday requires four smaller cuts on the patient's side to insert a camera, light and instruments into the body. Sachs said the "Nintendo surgery" allows doctors to operate by watching the instruments' movements on television screens set up in the operating room.

Endoscopic surgery is common for certain procedures, but has been slow to spread in treating spinal deformities because of the complexity of the procedure and the high cost of the equipment, said Sachs, who has performed the procedure at his former positions at medical centers in Texas and New York.

In both procedures, surgeons realign the vertebrae and attach screws and rods to the spine to lock it in an upright position.

But patients who get the new procedure have less deforming scars, risk fewer complications, spend less time in the hospital immediately following the surgery and return to daily life faster.

That's good news for Schroyer, a University of South Carolina devotee.

"I've gotta be at the Gamecocks' home opener September 2," he said.

Reach Renee Dudley at 937-5550 or