• Spinal imaging for lumbar fusion patient

Sophisticated Imaging Technology Gives Clearest Pictures During Delicate Spine Surgery

As a train conductor, 41-year-old Sean Crowley oversees the crew and operation of his daily Joliet-to-Chicago route on the Metra Rock Island line.

One of his many responsibilities involves manually operating or “throwing” railroad track switches. For years, he’s done so without incident.

But in the summer of 2012, the switch in the 51st Street yard malfunctioned when Sean applied force to move it. In the span of a moment, the Frankfort father of two was brought to his knees in pain.

“I felt something sharp in my lower back, and my legs gave out,” he explains.

The diagnosis: injury of two discs in the lower back that added pressure on the nearby nerves. Initially, Sean received epidural shots and physical therapy to relieve the pain. But they provided little relief – not good for a busy father of two.

After nearly three years of treatments, Sean was given the green light to see a spine specialist. Two co-workers highly recommended renowned spine surgeon George Miz, M.D., based on their own successful experiences.

“Sean had continuing pain and weakness in his lower back and legs,” Dr. Miz explains. “Surgery was the only option.”

So Dr. Miz recommended a combination of procedures, including a decompressive laminectomy to remove a portion of the affected vertebrae that were irritating the nearby nerves and causing weakness in his legs – and a lumbar fusion to provide overall stability.

Because of the complex nature of spinal surgery, Dr. Miz used a highly advanced three-dimensional imaging system at Ingalls to assist him: the revolutionary Brainlab Airo Mobile Intraoperative CT technology.

Unprecedented 3D Viewing

In 2014, Ingalls became one of the first in the nation to install the mobile CT technology that allows surgeons to use intraoperative scans and navigation instruments to ensure safety and optimal positioning of surgical instruments.

“The technology allows for detailed 3-D pictures of the complex anatomy of the spine, and the nerves and roots of the spinal cord to guide surgeons as they operate, giving them increased confidence when working around these delicate structures,” Dr. Miz explains.

What’s more, the technology produces images in record time. While traditional X-rays or MRI scans can take up to 30 minutes to obtain needed images, the newer technology at Ingalls can produce 32-slice CT scans in just one to two minutes that offer unprecedented visualization of the bones and soft tissue.

“Airo allows surgeons to image the entire spine in a single scan without having to move the patient,” he added. “It’s also very adaptable and can be moved to accommodate special setups for specific cranial, spine and trauma cases, allowing patients to be positioned lying down or even in a sitting position.”

Back at It

Following a brief two-day stay at Ingalls and subsequent recovery at home, Sean underwent physical therapy to regain his lost strength. “I felt very comfortable with Dr. Miz throughout,” he adds.

Though he still feels some discomfort, Sean’s back to doing what he loves best: being a dad and a busy Metra conductor. The best part, he says, is that since surgery, his legs “don’t feel like they’re going to give out anymore.”

“I used to enjoy playing golf and hard-ball baseball,” he adds. “I hope to get back to those sometime this spring or summer.”


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