New Twist on Spine Surgery: April 4, 2012

Life had become a pain in the back for Ana Palmer.

“I’d been in pain for over ten years and I just couldn’t take it anymore.”

Ana’s pain was due to degenerative scoliosis, which was causing her spine to compress. X-rays show it literally collapsing.

“I couldn’t even walk two steps without pain,” says Palmer.

She needed 3-level spinal fusion surgery. It usually requires a large incision in the back and cutting or moving muscles to get to the vertebrae, but her neurosurgeon took a different approach.

“The newest one is an operation called XLIF. It’s a small incision coming in directly from the side where you’re doing, essentially a large lumbar fusion operation, but doing it through small incisions,” says Dr. Jeffrey Henn, a neurosurgeon with Lee Memorial Health System.

Operating between the muscles is a delicate procedure and also less invasive, meaning patients are up and around in weeks, not months.

“Patients get out of the hospital faster they’re up and mobilizing faster. So we avoid a bunch of other complications,” says Dr. Henn.

The XLIF procedure opened up space for Ana’s nerves, giving her back a break while straightening her spine. Her latest x-ray is dramatic.

“I can now offer patients options that ten years ago just didn’t exist and in many cases those are options that are the difference between saying let’s do it or let’s not do it,” says Dr. Henn.

Three months post surgery Ana is looking at life with no limitations.

“Sometimes I’m you know walking, sometimes I pinch myself, I said ‘is it real?’ I don’t even remember you know feeling this good in a long time.”