Bohus “Bob” Svagr, MD

Dr. Bob Svagr can perform spinal surgery throughout the United States, as well as Europe. His international credentials stem from his medical training in the Czech Republic. Dr. Svagr earned his medical degree from Charles University in Prague, one of Europe’s oldest universities and among the leading universities in central Europe.

His training in spine surgery includes the range of management of spinal disorders in athletes, degenerative arthritic spines, progressive scoliosis deformities, spinal infections, tumors of the spine, as well as spinal trauma.

Dr. Svagr completed an eight-year residency in spinal surgery in Prague, working at the Orthopedic Clinic of the First Medical Faculty. He traveled to the U.S. for a fellowship in spine surgery at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. This additional training was followed up with a second fellowship at Shriners Hospital for Children in Honolulu. Overall, his expertise in spinal surgery includes all spinal disorders, spinal infections, degenerative disorders and spinal trauma.

Dr. Svagr opted to remain in the U.S., joining Tanner Clinic in 2004. He lives in the area with his wife and three children, where he enjoys skiing and the outdoors. Svagr is known for his enthusiasm, laid-back personality, and his love for each of his patients. When asked what keeps him in Utah, his answer is: “The people.”

What patients are saying about Dr. Svagr

“After Dr Svagar operated on my back I have been pain free for over ten years. Recently I had a bad fall which has injured my back again. I am turning to him again for help. I appreciate his knowledge and advice. I’m going to need surgery again and trust him to do his best to help me recover as best I can at my age.” – Review on, May 15, 2015

“Dr. Svagr is the best! He fixed my husband’s back at age 25 and it was the best decision we ever made! He knows his stuff!”    —  McKenzi on Facebook, Oct. 1, 2014

“Dr. Svagr operated on me March 18. I’m 80 years old and had a bad back. I know doctors hesitate operating on someone as old as I am, but Dr. Svagr did an excellent job. I was in a lot of pain, and now I’m not. If you want a good doctor and one who cares what happens to you, it’s Dr. Svagr.”     — Ethel in Roy, thank you note sent to the clinic, May 1, 2014

“I have had four disc surgeries in my neck and Dr. Svagr was absolutely the best. My pain is better, my movement is better, and I feel better. I was back to doing what I do quicker. First three, not so good! He know his business and I think he’s a funny character. Thanks, doc!”    —  Review on, June 10, 2014

Clumsy Hands? Symptoms That Could Signal Spine Trouble

Is your elderly mother beginning to walk with a wobble? Is she losing dexterity in her hands? Or feeling pain in her arms?

The symptoms may seem to point away from an ailment in the back. But many times, that’s exactly what it is, says Dr. Bob Svagr, spine surgeon at Tanner Clinic.

Elderly patients, particularly, may lose their stability and balance, as well as coordination. The result, says Dr. Svagr, is “they might think it’s something else.”

The symptoms may actually be occurring because of “long-standing compression of the spinal cord,” which disrupts the signals the arms and legs are sending to the brain. This feedback, he says, “doesn’t work well, so you’re not able to coordinate your motions.”

Nearly 90 percent of the patients who come to Dr. Svagr suffer from degeneration of the spine. Sometimes this degeneration is caused by age, sometimes by lack of movement, sometimes by a long-ago trauma. The other 10 percent of Dr. Svagr’s patients have received a spine injury.

Dr. Svagr’s practice sees a wide range of conditions, including fractures and carpal tunnel disorder. More commonly, however, Dr. Svagr sees patients with disc herniation, which he describes as a “focal narrowing and impingement of the nerves,” caused by an offending disc.

Spine as a specialty

Dr. Svagr’s specialty takes in all three areas of the spine: cervical (the small vertebrae in the neck); lumbar (the five vertebrae in the lower back between the rib cage and the pelvis); and thoracic (the vertebrae in the middle back).

He also performs both anterior and posterior approaches to the spine. An anterior approach — which basically means from the front (as in the side of the neck) — lends itself to many conditions requiring surgery, such as stenosis and disc herniation. This type of surgery has many advantages because it’s done microscopically, resulting in a smaller incision, says Dr. Svagr. Also, anterior surgery does not disturb the muscles that stabilize your neck; it lowers overall risk and reduces recovery time.

There are times, however, when a posterior approach from the back — usually the lumbar region, or lower back — is required. Posterior surgery usually involves the use of metal implants, such as screws.

The severity of spine surgery is measured in “levels” ⁚ a level-3 surgery, for instance, would be the fusion of three discs. Surgery of a level 4 or higher usually requires the posterior approach, said Dr. Svagr.

Better technology

Technologies in spine surgery are advancing, particularly, he says, “with the development of surgeries with a smaller incision and less collateral damage, so you don’t expose the patient to such a long recovery.”

Despite these advances in scientific know-how and the reputation of Dr. Svagr as a skilled surgeon, the idea of spine surgery remains scary to many patients. In fact, the question Dr. Svagr is most often asked by his patients is concerning the safety of the surgery.

Cervical spine surgery produces good results. Dr. Svagr sees a 95 percent success rate. “Few surgeries will give you that good of an outcome,” he says.

Consider, however, that while the head weighs 10 to 15 pounds — a relatively small impact on recovery from cervical spine surgery — the torso weighs maybe 10 times more. As a result, surgery on the lower back has somewhat higher complication rate, said Dr. Svagr.

Although many factors apply, Dr. Svagr may recommend surgery when there is severe compression of the nerves, when patients are having difficulty walking or when they cannot control bowels or bladder.

When considering posterior surgery, he adds, “You have to decide whether you really need to do surgery. You need to be really careful about it.”



In the Media

♦ News about Dr. Svagr: The story of a mountain climber’s fall, and how Dr. Svagr helped the climber walk again. Read the article at the Hilltop Times.

♦ Spine tingling: To understand and learn more about spine surgery, here is a fascinating animated explanation, recommended by Dr. Svagr.


Back Me Up: A Glossary of Spinal Terms

spine-smallStenosis: A medical condition in which the spinal      canal narrows and compresses the spinal cord and  nerves, often due to the spinal degeneration that  occurs with aging

 Surgery levels: The number of levels of the spine being fused; e.g., a Level 3 would involve the fusion of three discs

Scoliosis: A medical condition in which a person’s spine is curved from side to side

Disc herniation: A condition in which a disk, the jelly-like material that separates the spinal bones, moves out of place (herniates) or breaks open (ruptures) from injury or strain, leading to pain, numbness or weakness

Microdiscectomy: Surgery to remove herniated disc material that is pressing on a nerve or the spinal cord, performed with a special microscope to view the disc and nerves

Decompression: Surgery in which the piece of the disc that is pressing against the nerve is removed

Spinal fusion: A surgical procedure that places a bone graft between two or more vertebrae with a goal of forming a solid union between the vertebrae; usually includes decompression

Instrumented fusion: Surgery to form a solid union between two vertebrae with the use of hardware that holds the vertebrae together so the graft can heal

Degenerative disc disorder: Disc degeneration is a normal part of aging; but in some individuals, a degenerated disc can cause severe chronic pain and affect quality of live. It is often indicated by chronic low back pain that may radiate to the hips, or pain in the buttocks or thighs.

Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF): A procedure in which the disc is removed and replaced with a small plug of bone or other graft substitute that, in time, will fuse the vertebrae and relieve the pinched nerves

— Tanner Clinic staff