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New Cervical Fusion Technique Transforms Churchville Woman’s Life

Lynne RidgwayLynne Ridgway, 58, spends 12 to 15 hours most days juggling. A full-time police dispatcher and 911 operator, she simultaneously answers phone calls, dispatches police officers, fills out paperwork and works on the computer. Lynne never imagined this routine, along with the aging process, would contribute to a degenerative, painful and disabling cervical (neck) spine disease.

In fall 2015, Lynne could barely move without severe neck pain that radiated down her arm into her fingertips. She had spent years in a job that required her to tilt her neck to one side, holding a phone receiver in place while performing other tasks. Although she used a shoulder rest to alleviate strain, over time, Lynne developed arthritis, which eventually led to compression on the nerves in her cervical spine.

“OVER A FIVE-YEAR PERIOD, I TRIED EVERYTHING
TO GET RELIEF FROM THE PAIN,”

said Lynne. “I worked with my doctor to try self-care, physical therapy, medication and steroid injections. Nothing worked anymore.” Lynne woke up most nights, crying in pain. She could no longer lift her grandchildren or her dog. “My doctor ordered a nerve test when I told her I could hear my shoulder crunching.” After tests revealed nerve damage, Lynne’s doctor referred her to Abington Neurosurgeon Michael Yoon, MD, who is specialty trained in a new technique.

Just when she thought she had exhausted her options for treatment, Lynne learned she was a candidate for a new, minimally invasive cervical fusion surgery neurosurgeons are performing now at Abington – Jefferson Health. Lynne was among the first patients at Abington Hospital to undergo the procedure using a new cervical spine technology. Previously immobilized by pain, after undergoing surgery, Lynne is now pain free.

“I was skeptical about surgery,” said Lynne, “but felt like I had exhausted all my options and the pain and burning were so severe.” Dr. Yoon ordered an MRI, which showed multiple levels of severe degenerative changes – including a pinched nerve – that affected four vertebrae in Lynne’s cervical spine. After consideration, Lynne decided to undergo the minimally invasive fusion technique.

The technology relieves pressure on the patient’s spinal nerve by opening the joint between vertebrae and stabilizing the area with two titanium implants and graft material so the nerve is no longer pinched. The implants facilitate healing and fusion of the joints, providing a more stable spinal column.

PREVIOUSLY IMMOBILIZED BY PAIN, AFTER UNDERGOING SURGERY, LYNNE IS NOW PAIN FREE

Unlike some other cervical fusion procedures, this technology does not require the neurosurgeon to remove any bone or tissue from the body, does not require extensive muscle stripping to expose bone openly, or the placement of rods or screws,” said Dr. Yoon. The surgical incisions are small, so the patient experiences less pain and recovers more quickly with minimal scarring.

Lynne spent just one night in the hospital and was discharged home with no need for physical therapy. She returned to work full time just three months after her surgery and remains pain free with no restrictions. “Best of all, I can pick up and hold my grandkids, again,” she said.

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