Straightening the Back with Spinal Fusion: January 18, 2012

A medical emergency turned into a surgical emergency of Dale Condor. An infection in his back severely damaged his spine.

“On May the 2nd of 2011, my spine collapsed. They transported me to the hospital and did a CAT scan and found that there had been damage to the spinal cord.”

Lee Memorial Health System neurosurgeon Jeffrey Henn was quick to realize Dale needed a spinal fusion.

“Typically when we talk about fusions we’re dealing with a problem of the structure of the spine,” says Dr. Henn.

Dale’s spin had collapsed to the point it was compressing his spinal cord. He was losing the ability to use his legs. The spinal fusion would straighten and reinforce his back and take the pressure off.

“We literally had to put screws above and below the area of failed spine and connect them together with rods so for that period of time we were essentially holding his spine together with metal,” says Dr. Henn. 

Spinal fusion is the tried and true procedure for joining together two or more vertebrae. First used to fix fractures, it’s now more common in treating age related problems, herniated discs and spinal stenosis.

“Just the act of living and using our bodies and working our lives, we put a lot of stress on our spine. If the degeneration results in what’s called stenosis where the spinal canal is narrowing down, that can make it extremely difficult for people to walk,” says Dr. Henn.

In those cases, the spinal fusion can often provide relief.

“To go in and simply open up the space where those nerves are squished and as I tell patients, if your symptoms are from stenosis and at the end of the operation you don’t have stenosis anymore, you’re going to do great,” says Dr. Henn.

Often a procedure of last resort, most patients can return to daily activities. Given the condition he was in, something Dale Condor is grateful for.

“I went from a wheel chair to a walker to a cane to where I am today.”