August 14, 2017

Patient gets relief from degenerative scoliosis with surgery and therapy

Foot and Ankle | Neck, Back and Spine | Non-operative Care | Patient Stories


In 2007, after months of excruciating back pain, Sue Arnold made an appointment with OrthoIndy’s Dr. Michael Coscia, an orthopedic spine surgeon.

Dr. Coscia informed Sue that she had degenerative scoliosis and spinal stenosis and recommended back surgery as an excellent option to relieve her scoliosis pain.

Read on to learn how after several injuries and setbacks, Sue returned to working in her garden and enjoying life without pain from degenerative scoliosis.

What are degenerative scoliosis and spinal stenosis?

Degenerative scoliosis is a condition that refers to an abnormal curvature of the spine, and it develops as joints in the spine degenerate, which causes the spine to bend.

Sue’s other condition, spinal stenosis, is a narrowing of the open spaces within your spine, which puts pressure on your spinal cord and the nerves that travel through the spine to your arms and legs.

Sue was uneasy when Dr. Coscia told her that she would need a hemilaminectomy and a foraminotomy on her L4 and L5 disk in her spine. Sue was very hesitant about having back surgery because of her passion for gardening. While she had been in extreme pain in the past, she always seemed to push through and tend to her gardens.

A hemilaminectomy is a highly invasive spine surgery that removes part of the vertebra called a lamina. Each vertebra in your spine holds two laminae, bony segments that form the rear of the vertebral arch and serve as a base for the vertebra.

Setting her nerves aside, Sue decided to go ahead with the back surgery, and things couldn’t have gone better. Dr. Coscia was extremely proud of Sue for how well she did. Back surgery has allowed Sue to continue doing the things she loves, like gardening, without pain.

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Pain relief after injury

Fast forward to 2012. That year, Sue was in a terrible car accident. Her car was t-boned and flipped upside down. Somehow, Sue walked away with only a spiral fracture in her right hand.

Since she had such a positive experience with her OrthoIndy back surgery, Sue returned to get her hand checked out. With OrthoIndy’s care, she was able to heal her hand using just a splint.

In May 2015, after a few years of happily caring for her gardens and doing work around her house, Sue found herself at OrthoIndy again. She was working outside and catapulted herself off of a ladder. Sue was highly confident that she had simply fractured her tibia.

She came to OrthoIndy to visit Dr. Bruce Rougraff, who specializes in bone tumor and soft tissue oncology. Dr. Rougraff diagnosed and treated Sue with an immobilizer for six weeks.

Though she lost a lot of strength and mobility in her leg from the six weeks she was immobilized, Sue has been able to go out and continue her social life. She coordinates volunteers in her herb garden at the White River Gardens, gardens on her own at home, travels to many different countries and exercises.

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The benefits of physical therapy

Seven weeks later, Sue started to move around just slightly when she began to experience lower back pain again. Sue came back to OrthoIndy and visited Dr. Meredith Langhorst, who specializes in spinal diagnostics and therapeutics.

She gave Sue her very first spinal injection into her L4 disk on July 20, 2015. “It was a painless experience,” explained Sue. “I received excellent attention from all staff involved.”

After several tries of the spinal injections and not much pain relief, Dr. Langhorst ordered an electromyography. An electromyography, often referred to as an EMG, is a diagnostic procedure that assesses the health of muscles and the nerve cells that control them.

Sue then tried physical therapy with OrthoIndy to relieve her back pain. “Therapy was beneficial, and I learned the proper way to walk, sit, etc.” Sue is thrilled with her results through physical therapy and has regular follow-up appointments with Dr. Langhorst.

Sue is now back at work but with some limitations. She’s back tending to her gardens and started taking Pilates classes. Sue was even able to travel to Lithuania and Russia this past summer. She is thankful for every single physician she has worked with at OrthoIndy.

The Ultimate Guide to Scoliosis Treatment cover

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Whether you’re just beginning to research scoliosis or have already made the decision to have scoliosis back surgery, our comprehensive guide gives you answers to common questions about scoliosis and examples of real patient success stories.

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