Nancy Farrar had been suffering from back, hip, and leg pain for the past five years. Her pain prevented her from doing the activities she used to enjoy. It got to the point that she couldn’t stand or walk for long periods of time. This meant she could no longer go to the theater, movies, church or Butler basketball games – one of her favorite pastimes. Even flights became painful and difficult. Feeling frustrated, Nancy knew something had to change.
After talking to her primary care physician and getting X-rays, Nancy was referred to OrthoIndy. Nancy first saw Dr. Nicholas Jasper, an OrthoIndy non-operative spine physician and pain management specialist.
Dr. Jasper tried medications, physical therapy and several spinal steroid injections to help Nancy. After it became clear that non-operative care wasn’t working well enough, Dr. Jasper sent Nancy to OrthoIndy spine surgeon, Dr. Kevin O’Neill.
Looking for a solution
“Nancy had a number of issues in her lumbar spine. She had scoliosis, degenerated discs and severe spinal stenosis – which is narrowing and pinching of the nerves within the spinal canal. We talked about the surgical options available,” said Dr. O’Neill. “The least invasive option was a laminectomy, which eliminates the spinal stenosis but would not address the scoliosis. In order to address all issues in her back, a more invasive surgery would be required.”
After reviewing the imaging and surgical options with Dr. O’Neill, Nancy decided to undergo the lumbar laminectomy. The surgery went well, and in a short time, all of her symptoms had gone away. For about two years, Nancy did quite well and was able to enjoy activities again.
Unfortunately, her symptoms began to return. She again started having pain radiating down her right leg, called sciatica. She came back in to see Dr. O’Neill.
“Unfortunately, the scoliosis had worsened somewhat, which was again causing pinching of the nerves in her back and causing her leg pain. At this point, we had tried everything to avoid a bigger surgery, but it became clear that a more invasive surgery would be needed,” said Dr. O’Neill.
Dr. O’Neill had recommended decompressing the nerves again, but this time performing a fusion of the lower thoracic and lumbar spine down to her sacrum and pelvis. This would be a major surgery, with a recovery that would be significantly longer than her previous surgery.
In April 2019, Nancy decided to go for the spinal fusion. “Dr. O’Neill explained the surgery to me and my husband the day I decided to go ahead with surgery,” said Nancy. “I received a lot of information regarding the surgery including recovery time, pain management and physical therapy.”
What can I expect after a spinal fusion?
“I think it’s really important for all patients undergoing surgery to have a good idea of what is going to be done, and what to expect after the surgery is complete,” said Dr. O’Neill. “This is especially true for more involved situations and surgeries like the one Nancy required.”
After surgery, Nancy went to a rehab facility for a couple weeks. She was then able to receive care from a physical therapist at home for a month. Currently, Nancy goes to physical therapy in Broad Ripple and will continue to do so for a few more weeks.
“I never thought I would make such speedy progress in less than four months,” Nancy said. “While this surgery is not one that I was looking forward to, I can honestly say that, while I still have months to go, this recovery is going very well and I am able to move about more freely than I expected.”
Nancy has made tremendous progress and is doing great. She is motivated and stays positive through the recovery, which can make such a big difference.
Life after spinal fusion
During her follow-up appointments, Nancy gets X-rays to check on the progress of her recovery. “Dr. O’Neill takes the time to answer all of my ‘what’s next’ questions,” said Nancy.
Nancy no longer experiences any of her previous pain. “Dr. O’Neill said I would almost immediately feel relief from the pain down my leg and he was exactly right,” said Nancy. “Six weeks after my surgery I was able to sit in the theater for two and a half hours and watch my oldest granddaughter graduate from high school, which I never would have been able to do before my surgery.”
On top of all that, Nancy is looking forward to actually being able to enjoy her next flight to Europe with her husband.
“I couldn’t be happier for Nancy to see her doing so well. I’m going to continue to see her and make sure she meets all of her goals. We definitely tried the least invasive options first, but sometimes bigger problems like she had require a bigger surgery to get great results,” said Dr. O’Neill.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. O’Neill, please call 317.802.2429 or learn more about neck and back pain treatment at OrthoIndy.
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