Back Pain a Thing of the Past Following Disc Replacement

When 38-year-old Julie Blair of Chicago recalls what life was like before she had back surgery at Ingalls, her most vivid memory is of pain. Even the simplest things, like washing the dishes, going for a walk or standing at the altar on her wedding day caused her to grimace.

"Everything was a chore for me," she explains. "I couldn't sneeze without bracing myself. Sometimes I'd take a step and just go down." She tried chiropractors, exercise, massages and cortisone injections to treat her unrelenting back pain, but nothing worked for long.

"My quality of life was miserable at that point," she said.

When she talked to her doctors about her degenerated disc, one orthopedic surgeon's name kept coming up: George Miz, M.D., a spine specialist with the Advanced Orthopedic Institute at Ingalls.

Dr. Miz told Julie about a special procedure that involves the replacement of a degenerated disc with an artificial one. At the time, it was still considered an experimental procedure. "Dr. Miz was very optimistic about the disc replacement," she recalls. After discussing it at length with her husband, Julie agreed to have the procedure at Ingalls.

Understanding Artificial Disc Replacement

The procedure begins by removing the degenerated gelatinous disc between the vertebrae. A plastic spacer made of a polyethylene core is put between the vertebrae, and the patient's own body weight compresses the spacer after the surgery is complete.

Candidates include individuals between 18-60 years of age with degenerative disc disease at one level in the lower back, who have failed at least six months of treatment such as pain medication, physical therapy, joint injections and epidural steroid injections.

"Artificial disc replacement is the first motion-preserving alternative to spinal fusion surgery," Dr. Miz explained. "It not only relieves the underlying back pain but also may protect patients from developing problems at the adjacent level of the spine."

The day after surgery, Julie was up and walking. Three days later, she was pain-free and recovering in the comfort of her own home. After several months of physical therapy, the energetic Chicago police officer was back on bike patrol with no problems.

Today, Julie and her husband are anxiously awaiting the birth of their first child – something she couldn't even have considered before surgery.

"There's no way I could have carried the extra weight of pregnancy with my back the way it was before," she added. "I'm so grateful to Dr. Miz."

If you'd like more information on artificial disc replacement, watch a webinar at: www.Ingalls.org/disc.

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