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Surgery Brings Relief from Severe Back Pain

Ronald MaurerRonald Maurer, 76, had never felt anything quite like the back pain that gripped him in ApriL 2016. “It was like someone was stabbing my thighs and lower back,” the Warminster resident recalls.

Ronald and his wife, Carolyn, consulted Guy Lee, MD, a Rothman Institute orthopedic surgeon and spine specialist at Abington Hospital – Jefferson Health. Dr. Lee diagnosed spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the open spaces in the spine that results in increased pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots. Spinal stenosis is a common condition that can be caused by osteoarthritis or gradual degeneration of the spine vertebrae due to aging. But Dr. Lee detected another issue in Ronald’s MRI: A fracture that was just beginning to heal but in the meantime was causing excruciating pain and weakness.

Ronald elected to try conservative treatment first with an epidural steroid injection in his lower back. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. Soon after the injection, he awoke one weekend in so much pain that he was unable to walk. A few days later, Ronald and Carolyn saw Dr. Lee at Abington Hospital.

“Dr. Lee took one look at me, sitting in a wheelchair, and said, ‘We’ve got to get you into surgery’,” Ronald recalls.

The next day, Dr. Lee performed a laminectomy, removing the back part of the affected vertebrae, as well as inflamed cartilage and ligaments, to create more room within the spinal canal and relieve pressure on the nerves. He also fused two of Ronald’s vertebrae to help heal the fracture and stabilize his spine.

“Laminectomy is a low-risk procedure and the best option for patients like Ronald, who are in so much pain that they’re unable to walk,” Dr. Lee says.

Over the next few months, Ronald gradually recovered, moving from the hospital, where he stayed for four days, to an inpatient rehabilitation facility. (Patients who have simple laminectomies are often discharged the next day.)

About a week after his surgery, he came home and started receiving in-home physical therapy. After about six weeks, he graduated from using a walker to walking with a cane and from taking prescription painkillers to an over-the-counter pain medication.

His pain level has improved tremendously. “I used to struggle to get out of bed, and now I’m walking for a half-hour everyday and doing chores around the house,” he says.

“I’m looking forward to getting back to gardening,
woodworking, and even mowing the lawn.”

Ronald’s prognosis is excellent,” Dr. Lee says. “With time and rehabilitation, he should be able to make close to a full recovery.”

“Dr. Lee was very honest with me and told me that this wasn’t going to be easy, but already I’d say that my pain is 80 percent better,” Ronald says. “I give him all the credit – he’s a great doctor.”

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