November 8, 2019

Patient undergoes spinal fusion to relieve scoliosis nerve pain

Neck, Back and Spine | Patient Stories


Degenerative disc disease, severe spinal stenosis and scoliosis nerve pain were keeping Nancy Farrar from doing what she loved, like going to the theater, movies, church and Butler basketball games.

Nancy had been suffering from back, hip, and leg pain for the past five years, and her pain prevented her from standing or walking for long periods. Even flights became painful and difficult. Feeling frustrated, she knew something had to change.

Read on to learn how spinal fusion surgery with OrthoIndy spine surgeon Dr. Kevin O’Neill has helped Nancy conquer scoliosis nerve pain and get her life back.

Looking for relief from scoliosis nerve pain

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 to relieve her scoliosis nerve pain, Dr. Jasper sent Nancy to Dr. O’Neill.

“Nancy had several issues in her lumbar spine. She had scoliosis, degenerated disc disease and severe spinal stenosis, which is narrowing and pinching of the nerves within the spinal canal. We talked about the surgical options available,” Dr. O’Neill says.

“The least invasive option was a laminectomy, which eliminates the spinal stenosis but would not address her scoliosis. To address all issues in her back, she would require more invasive surgery.”

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 scoliosis nerve pain 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.

Make an appointment with a spine specialist

“Unfortunately, her scoliosis had worsened somewhat, which was again causing pinching of the nerves in her back and causing her scoliosis nerve pain in her leg. At this point, we had tried everything to avoid a bigger surgery, but it became clear that Nancy would need more invasive surgery,” Dr. O’Neill says.

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 procedure would be major surgery, with a recovery that would be significantly longer than her previous surgery.

In April 2019, Nancy decided to go for spinal fusion surgery. “Dr. O’Neill explained the surgery to my husband and me the day I decided to go ahead with surgery,” Nancy says. “I received a lot of information regarding the surgery, including recovery time, pain management and physical therapy.”

Watch Dr. Schwartz perform scoliosis surgery (warning: graphic content)

What can I expect after a spinal fusion?

“I think it’s crucial 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,” Dr. O’Neill says. “This is especially true for more involved situations and surgeries like the one Nancy required.”

After surgery for scoliosis nerve pain, Nancy went to a rehab facility for a couple of 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 says. “While this scoliosis nerve pain 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 can 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.

Learn more about OrthoIndy spine treatments

Life after spinal fusion

During her follow-up appointments, Nancy gets X-rays to check on the progress of her recovery from surgery for scoliosis nerve pain. “Dr. O’Neill takes the time to answer all of my ‘what’s next’ questions,” Nancy says.

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,” Nancy says.

“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 would never have been able to do before my surgery.”

On top of all that, Nancy is looking forward to 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 scoliosis nerve pain require a bigger surgery to get great results,” Dr. O’Neill says.

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Schedule an Appointment Call OrthoIndy 317.802.2000

Contributed By Kevin O'Neill, MD

Dr. Kevin O’Neill is a spine surgeon who evaluates and treats patients with a wide variety of neck and spine conditions and performs a variety of spine procedures– such as spinal fusions. He eliminates back surgery risks by using techniques such as minimally invasive and motion-preserving orthopedic surgery for the most complex spine reconstructions.

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