Joshua M. Beckman, a board-certified neurosurgeon and Denver spine surgeon, has joined Neurosurgery One. Dr. Beckman specializes in spine surgery and will begin seeing patients Aug. 1, 2021, at Neurosurgery One’s Lakewood medical office.
Dr. Beckman has extensive experience in non-surgical treatments and minimally invasive spine surgery for conditions such as herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, failed back syndrome, scoliosis, fractures, and other spine problems that can cause pain or disability.
Dr. Beckman joins Neurosurgery One as a Denver spine surgeon after serving as the director of spine surgery at San Antonio Military Medical Center, the nation’s largest military hospital and Level I trauma center where he developed special expertise in treating severe spinal and head injuries. As a spine surgeon in the U.S. Air Force, Dr. Beckman treated spinal conditions in military personnel who had some of the most physically demanding jobs in the military including special operations forces, rescue, and infantry.
We asked Dr. Beckman to answer a few questions about his experience as a spine surgeon moving to Denver. Here’s what he had to say.
How long have you been a neurosurgeon?
Dr. Beckman: I have 10 years of experience in neurosurgery, four of which were at San Antonio Military Medical Center, the largest military hospital in the U.S. and one of the busiest Level 1 trauma centers in the nation. There, I served as vice chair of the department of neurological surgery and the director of complex spinal surgery.
What was it like being a U.S. Air Force surgeon?
Dr. Beckman: Very busy! In addition to being stationed at the busiest armed forces hospital in the country, I was also called upon on as the spine advisor to our executive medicine clinic as well as the spine advisor to multiple fighter pilot squadrons and special forces divisions. I also helped write the Department of Defense guidelines for transport in spinal trauma and traveled around the country to teach newer spinal fixation techniques to other surgeons. In the military, you have the opportunity to help our down-range forces in a variety of ways. I am very grateful for the opportunity to have helped so many of our airmen and soldiers.
Do you conduct research into new techniques of spine surgery?
Dr Beckman: Yes, quite a bit, actually. I’ve had 19 of the projects I’ve worked on published in medical journals over the past 10 years, plus authored book chapters and made many oral presentations at national conferences. I also hold a patent for a novel shunt catheter system that I invented.
My main research focus involves minimally invasive treatment in the lumbar spine region, or lower back, and spinal deformity. One interesting research project that I reviewed during my time in the U.S. Air Force involved artificial disc replacement in the cervical (neck) spine in pilots who fly jets with ejection seats. With safety for their pilots as its first priority, the Air Force worried that use of an artificial disc — which is a much newer procedure than traditional spinal fusion — may not withstand the pressure of ejecting from a jet. Pilots were placed in a centrifuge similar to the one NASA uses and evaluated to assure the artificial disc could withstand the G-force. They were then flown in a dual seat aircraft and underwent high-G maneuvers to further determine safety. The evidence for cervical disc replacement is incredibly well documented and it was nice to see some pilots cleared to get back in the sky after undergoing a disc replacement surgery. We thought this was a huge win for the surgery.
Where did you train as a spine surgeon?
Dr. Beckman: I earned my MD from the University of Alabama School of Medicine and then completed a neurosurgical residency at Tampa General Hospital through the University of South Florida. Tampa General is a Level 1 trauma center with a 32-bed neuroscience intensive care unit. It’s a renowned Center of Excellence for complex spinal deformity, epilepsy, and minimally invasive spine surgery.
What do you specialize in as a neurosurgeon?
Dr. Beckman: I treat a wide range of brain and spine disorders, including back pain, neck pain, spinal stenosis, brain and spine tumors, adult degenerative scoliosis, traumatic brain injuries and spinal trauma. I specialize in minimally invasive spine surgery, including a minimally invasive lateral thoraco-lumbar fusion, which utilizes a height restoration philosophy through small side incisions as opposed to the classic bony removal and shortening techniques. I have actually had a few patients gain 3-4 inches in height after correcting their spinal curve.
Do you perform any non-surgical pain management procedures?
Dr. Beckman: Yes, I do neuromodulation, including spinal cord stimulators. I’m big into non-fusion management of back pain when able. My philosophy is to take a stepwise approach to surgery, starting with the most minimal procedure first and then working our way up to a fusion only if absolutely necessary.
Why did you decide to become a Denver spine surgeon with Neurosurgery One?
Dr. Beckman: I think the people are really what attracted me to the practice. Everybody seems to be really nice and professional and willing to help with anything. Metro Denver is a highly competitive market, and it’s rare to find people who want to be there for each other, and so it was a good fit personally.
The second reason is that I will be performing surgery at St. Anthony Hospital in Denver, which is a Level 1 trauma center. This will allow me to really hone in on the trauma aspect of my practice. And there are a lot of resources associated with a Level 1 trauma center. It really is beneficial for doing complex spine surgery.
What is your patient care philosophy?
Dr. Beckman: I take a very personalized approach to patient care. First, I get to know my patients and try to establish realistic expectations. Most have been in pain for quite a while and have already maximized nonsurgical treatment or had some form of surgery in the past. I always ask, “What are your expectations for this appointment?” Some patients want assurance that their nonsurgical plan is appropriate while others want to discuss surgical options. I also find that some patients are frustrated—and reasonably so— with the entire treatment process and just want their pain to go away. It really helps me to know what my patient’s expectations are so I can spend the majority of our visit trying to meet and exceed them. When we find surgery is indicated, I like to move very quickly so they can get the relief they need as soon as possible. Also, I’m a big believer in the importance of post-operative recovery and the ERAS([Enhanced Recovery After Surgery) protocol. That means I believe in mobilizing patients as quickly as possible after surgery because research shows that will decrease their pain and lead to a better and quicker recovery. As a new Denver spine surgeon, I’m pleased to see that this protocol is being used here and especially at Neurosurgery One. Lastly, I rarely use braces or collars after surgery. In my experience, most patients have done better without them or not found them too helpful.
How do you spend your free time?
Dr. Beckman: My wife and I have a 16-month-old daughter who keeps us busy. We try to stay outside as much as possible, mountain biking, camping, gardening, and doing cleanups along the river.
Schedule An Appointment
Dr. Beckman will begin seeing patients in the Neurosurgery One Lakewood and Arvada medical offices on Aug. 1, 2021. He will have immediate availability for new patients who are struggling with neck, arm, back, or leg pain and also patients with complex spinal disorders or conditions such as scoliosis.