November 11, 2020

Skeptical patient gets her life back after sciatica surgery

Neck, Back and Spine

After years of back pain, spondylolysis surgery for sciatica gave Melanie Miller her life back.

Melanie had suffered from chronic back pain since 2008 after slipping a disc. In summer 2019, she lifted a piece of wood that was too heavy for her and hurt her back. She could barely walk.

Read on to learn how Melanie found help at OrthoIndy, and how spondylolysis surgery for sciatica has given Melanie a chance at life without back pain.

Finding a spine specialist at OrthoIndy

After her injury, Melanie began researching her options, meeting with chiropractors and surgeons and even scheduling a surgery once before. But she never felt comfortable with the idea of back surgery or with any of the doctors she met.

Then Melanie’s chiropractor suggested she see a specialist at OrthoIndy.

Melanie was skeptical, as she had seen a few surgeons before her injury and had no luck, but she 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. 

Lower back pain diagnosis

Dr. O’Neill knew Melanie was in pain and provided 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 says.

“Melanie had been having years of back pain by the time I met her,” Dr. O’Neill says. “She had several 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. 

Make an appointment with an Orthoindy spine specialist

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 it is part of the lumbar spine. The sciatica pain symptoms in her legs were 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 says.

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 says. “It is then filled with a bone graft to allow the two bones to heal, or fuse, together.”

He did the second part through a couple of 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 says. “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.”

What to expect during the diagnosis and treatment process when you see a doctor for back pain.

Lower back surgery recovery

Today, Melanie is doing better than ever after spondylolysis surgery for sciatica.

“The bones appear to have already healed together, and she is back to doing everything she wants to do,” Dr. O’Neill says. “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,” she says. “I feel like a different person!”

To schedule an appointment with Dr. O’Neill, please call 317.802.2429.

Schedule an appointment

Your well-being is important to us, and if you’re suffering from back pain, our team can help. Schedule online or call us to set up an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists.

Learn more about the conditions that could be causing you pain, and find out if spine surgery for sciatica is right for you.

If your injury or condition is recent, you can walk right into one of our OrthoIndy Urgent Care locations for immediate care. No referral is needed for rehabilitation and physical therapy to see one of our physical therapists.

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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