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Finally Free of Back Pain

Patient VideoDoylestown woman celebrates sweet relief.

Joan Wiley, 78, feels like “dancing an Irish jig.” She can’t say enough about her recent lumbar spinal fusion by Steven J. Barrer, M.D., chief, Neurosurgery Division, at Abington Memorial Hospital.

Joan Wiley

“I had such searing back and leg pain that I could hardly walk,” the Doylestown resident exclaims. “I saw some other doctors in the region, but no one could help me. I tried all the other things – rest, injections, physical therapy. Nothing helped.”

Dr. Barrer notes that it’s key to make the most accurate diagnosis. “Joan has a condition called ‘spinal stenosis,’ which is a narrowing of the spinal canal. It’s very common when people reach their 60’s and 70’s. The result is lumbar ‘claudication.’ The nerves that run throughout the canal are squeezed at one or more vertebral levels, causing intense pain in the lower back and leg.”

The neurosurgeon performed a minimally invasive hemilamenectomy with facet fusion of her fourth and fifth vertebrae levels.

Dr. Barrer explains, “With hemilaminectomy, we make a small incision in the back to reach the lamina. This bone covers the spinal canal. We use an operating microscope as a guide to remove part of the lamina, freeing the nerves underneath. In this way, we can preserve more of the natural bone and avoid extensive dissection of muscle and bone. Then, we fuse the facet joint with the same bone removed during the hemilaminectomy, for additional spinal stability.”

The minimally invasive procedure results in less postoperative pain, less blood loss and scarring. Patients enjoy a much faster recovery.

Joan knew her results the moment she got out of bed during her brief hospital stay. “As soon as I put my foot on the floor to stand, I realized all of my pain was gone,” she exclaims. “Since that moment, I have had no pain whatsoever. Without this surgery, I would be in a wheelchair now.

“You can’t go on in constant agony,” she adds. “I’m so thankful to Dr. Barrer for his skill in finding and fixing the source of my pain. I’ve been telling everyone I know about my results.”  

Joan’s already back to volunteering three days a week at a local hospital. She’s such an advocate that she’s talked to others her age who are suffering but afraid to have surgery.

“I’m just thrilled,” she laughs. And ready to dance.

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