Seventy-one-year-old Karyl Lee Olels was no stranger to surgery, having had both hips replaced and work done on her rotator cuff.
But there didn’t seem to be any answer for the back problems that had plagued her for years.
“The pain was getting progressively worse,” she recalls. “I saw orthopedic specialists, and they told me that having back surgery was the worst thing I could do. So I tried physical therapy and pain injections, but neither was helping.”
Karyl Lee mentioned the back pain during a follow-up appointment with the orthopedic surgeon who had treated her rotator cuff problems. He suggested that she see his ProOrtho colleague, Dr. Addison Stone, a specialist in minimally invasive spine surgery.
Dr. Stone diagnosed degenerative spondylolisthesis – the slippage of one vertebra over another in Karyl Lee’s lower back that was causing significant nerve compression and leg pain.
He recommended a spinal-fusion surgery. “During surgery, we reduce the spondylolisthesis, so it’s no longer slipped,” he explains. “Then we reestablish the space between the two vertebrae and fuse them together. That stabilizes that segment of the back, and decompresses the nerves, to help eliminate the pain.”
Dr. Stone goes on to explain, “Traditionally, and still the gold standard in many places, this surgery involves a long incision with stripping of the muscles off the spine in order to be able to place screws and the rods for the fusion. Due to the significant soft-tissue trauma, there is a higher risk of infection. In addition, recovery can be prolonged with considerable pain.”
Karyl Lee was understandably apprehensive about having an extensive back surgery, but Dr. Stone had a secret weapon that the other surgeons didn’t: a minimally invasive approach to spine surgery that would speed recovery and lessen the pain.
When he performed Karyl Lee’s TLIF (transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion) in March 2011, not only did Dr. Stone use minimally invasive spine surgery techniques, with smaller instruments that allowed for smaller incisions – he also, for the very first time, used computer navigation.
“Computer navigation allows us to see exactly what we’re doing,” he notes, “so we leave the operating room knowing our screws are perfectly placed.”
Dr. Stone continues, “EvergreenHealth is one of the first in the region to be doing computer navigation for the spine. It’s another example of EvergreenHealth being at the forefront of medical technology to benefit its patients.”
The combination of minimally invasive spine surgery and computer navigation had Karyl Lee Olels out of the hospital in just 12 hours.
“Those small incisions didn’t hurt nearly as much as the larger ones I’d had with my previous surgeries,” she marvels. “Three months later, I was having fun at Disney World!”
She’s returned to the gardening she loves and has added bicycling to her outdoor activities.
Karyl Lee is thrilled with her outcome, and with her experience at EvergreenHealth. “This is the first time I’ve had surgery at EvergreenHealth, and I will definitely make sure I keep my care at EvergreenHealth in the future,” she says. “I’m really impressed with both the hospital and Dr. Stone.”
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