November 11, 2020

Skeptical patient undergoes surgery for chronic back pain

Neck, Back and Spine


Melanie Miller has suffered from chronic back pain since 2008 after slipping a disc. In summer 2019, Melanie lifted a piece of wood that was too heavy for her and hurt her back. She could barely walk and went to a local chiropractor for therapy. 

Since then, she has been researching her options, meeting with chiropractors and surgeons and even scheduled a surgery once before. But she never felt absolutely comfortable with the surgery or any of the doctors she met. 

Her chiropractor suggested that Melanie should see a specialist at OrthoIndy. 

Finding a spine specialist at OrthoIndy 

Melanie was skeptical as she had seen a few surgeons prior to her injury and had no luck, but Melanie decided to take her chiropractor’s suggestion and began her research.  

Melanie reviewed doctor and facility reviews online and on Facebook.  

After seeing a lot of positive reviews and comments, Melanie decided to make an appointment with OrthoIndy spine surgeon, Dr. Kevin O’Neill.  

Ultimate Guide to Back Pain Relief

Lower back pain diagnosis 

Dr. Kevin O’Neill knew Melanie was in pain and made sure to provide timely exceptional care when treating her. 

“I think I maybe waited 5 to 10 minutes in the waiting room before they took me to get an X-ray. I waited another 5 to 10 minutes before Dr. O’Neill was in the room. He was very pleasant and to the point,” Melanie said. 

“Melanie had been having years of back pain by the time I met her,” Dr. O’Neill said. “She had a number of different treatments, but none had given her lasting relief.” 

Dr. O’Neill ordered an MRI to confirm Melanie’s diagnosis. In the months leading up to Melanie’s appointment, her back pain turned into leg pain, consistent with sciatica or radiculopathy.   

Her MRI was scheduled within the week, and Dr. O’Neill saw her the same day to confirm the diagnosis and schedule surgery. 

Dr. O’Neill diagnosed Melanie with spondylolysis of her L5 vertebrae, known as the pars defect. Your L5 vertebrae is at the base of your spine and is part of the lumbar spine. The pain in her legs was being caused by significant nerve compression in her back. 

“Spondylolysis is a condition in which the back part of the vertebrae is not solidly connected to the front part, allowing the bone to slide out of position – which is called spondylolisthesis,” Dr. O’Neill said. 


What to expect with back surgery 

Melanie underwent a two-part surgery to correct her condition. The first part was an anterior interbody fusion (ALIF). 

“An incision is made on the belly and the disc between the vertebrae is removed and replaced with a cage or spacer that holds the bones apart,” Dr. O’Neill said. “It is then filled with a bone graft to allow the two bones to heal, or fuse, together.” 

The second part was done through a couple small incisions in her back. A computer navigation system helped insert screws and rods to hold the bones together after a CT scan was performed in the operating room. 

“I was home in two days,” Melanie said. “I was back on my feet the same day as surgery and they did it through my stomach and back! I never felt intimidated or like I didn’t know what was going on through the whole process.” 

Lower back surgery recovery 

Melanie is six months post-operative and doing better than ever. 

“The bones appear to have already healed together, and she is back to doing everything she wants to do,” Dr. O’Neill said. “I couldn’t be happier for her!” 

Melanie is grateful for her experience with OrthoIndy and Dr. O’Neill. 

“The doctors and nurses have been wonderful and have changed my life,” Melanie said. “I feel like a different person!” 

To schedule an appointment with Dr. O’Neill, please call 317.802.2429 or learn more about OrthoIndy Spine and Dr. O’Neill. 

Schedule an appointment 

Your well-being is important to us. Click the button below or call us to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists. If your injury or condition is recent, you can walk right into one of our OrthoIndy Urgent Care locations for immediate care. For rehabilitation and physical therapy, no referral is needed to see one of our physical therapists

Schedule an Appointment Call OrthoIndy 317.802.2000

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