EUOSH

Emory Spine Patient Story: “I wanted to walk down my long driveway – I can now.”

By Sara Dollar, Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center patient

Scoliosis PatientAt the age of 12, I started seeing a chiropractor. In my early teenage years, I was diagnosed with severe scoliosis. Doctors told me that by the time I reached the age of 45, I might not be able to breathe if the scoliosis got bad enough. My spine was shaped like a perfect “S.” I had my first surgery in 1977, followed by several more surgeries. Surgery after surgery left me in excruciating pain. I lived my life, but because my spine was stuck in a bad position, I walked crooked, I couldn’t stand up straight, I couldn’t walk my dogs, and I couldn’t walk five feet without my back spasming. I had become like a hermit crab.

In September 2014, I was referred to John M. Rhee, MD, a spinal surgeon at the Emory Orthopaedic & Spine Center, because I had a very delicate problem that my former surgeons could not handle. Dr. Rhee explained to me what could be done, and I was so excited that I wanted to have surgery on the same day as my office visit! But because my problem was very severe, and the required surgery would be complex, Dr. Rhee asked me to go home and discuss this with my family. I was so grateful for this! After much thought, I decided to have surgery – a lumbar osteotomy, which is a major operation done only at highly- specialized spine centers, like Emory, because of its complexity.

I had done so much research on Emory and Dr. Rhee that even before my first scheduled appointment I knew that I had made the right decision. I felt comfortable. Before I went into surgery, I made some goals that I wanted to attain after my procedures: mainly, I just wanted to live without pain. I am happy to say that Dr. Rhee helped me achieve this!

I had two planned surgeries to correct my severe scoliosis and kyphosis. They were done on January 22 and 23, 2015. Compression on the nerves had to be relieved along with fusion and correction of the deformed areas of the spine. My previous hardware had to be removed and repositioned properly, and a wedge of bone was removed from one of my vertebrae in order to realign my spine so I could stand up straight again. This was a major procedure because I had had multiple prior surgeries that left my spine severely deformed.

At my six week checkup, I was walking without any assistance from a cane, walker or person. I think I surprised Dr. Rhee with how well I was doing and how quickly I had recovered.

While I am still healing, I am not in any pain and am accomplishing all of my goals. I wanted to walk down my long driveway – I can now. I wanted to be able to walk down the beach – I can now. I wanted the freedom of walking into a store to grab some milk and bread without needing or using a shopping cart – I can now. When the time comes, I want to run after my future grandchildren, and because of my surgery, I believe I will be able to.

My advice to others considering spine surgery; do not be afraid, stop living in pain, quit suffering and get your good quality of life back. Surgery is not the answer for everyone, but if it is, I would not trust anyone other than the renowned spine surgeons at Emory Orthopaedic & Spine Center. Thanks to them, I am living well and attaining my goals.

About Dr. Rhee

John Rhee, MDJohn M. Rhee, MD, is a Spinal Surgeon and Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery specializing in cervical spine surgery, lumbar spine surgery, complex spinal deformity surgery (scoliosis and kyphosis) and surgery for spinal tumors. Dr. Rhee is an active researcher and sought-after teacher/lecturer at the national and international level in multiple medical societies. He has served as faculty and been an invited lecturer at numerous meetings and courses on spine surgery. In addition, he has served as Program Chairman at numerous national and international spine surgery meetings. Dr. Rhee has also published extensively in a number of peer reviewed journals and books, and he has received numerous awards and honors. He is actively involved the training of international research scholars and other spinal surgeons and has been the author and editor of major textbooks on spine surgery techniques.

How Aging Affects Your Cervical Spine – Part I: Pinched Nerve

Pinched NerveThe cervical spine refers to that portion of the spinal column that is within our neck. This section of the spine has two essential roles: providing flexibility so that we can move our head up and down and side to side, and protecting the spinal cord nerves that pass through it. Cervical radiculopathy, or pinched nerve, tends to occur when the nerve roots are irritated or compressed by one of many conditions.

Cause

Cervical radiculopathy can occur in a wide variety of patients, with those younger than 50 tending to suffer as a result of disc herniations. Other than trauma or injury, degenerative conditions as a result of aging are the main cause of neck pain. As disks age, they lose height and the vertebrae move closer together, causing the body to respond by forming more bone—called spurs—around the disk to strengthen it. However, the spurs can also contribute to stiffening of the spine. Bone spurs may also narrow the area of the foramen and pinch the nerve root.

Symptoms

The primary symptoms of cervical radiculopathy include pain radiating from the neck into the shoulder, upper arm, forearm, or hand.  Sometimes the symptoms radiate into all of these areas, whereas in other cases, the symptoms may radiate to only some of these areas.  Other associated symptoms can include tingling and numbness.  In some cases, weakness of various muscle groups in the shoulder, arm, and hand may occur.

Treatments

Non-surgical:

Interventional treatments for cervical radiculopathy are generally attempted first and may include:

  • Physical therapy and/or exercise to help relieve the pressure on the nerve root. Stretching as many dimensions of the neck as possible is essential to maintain flexibility and relieve chronic stiffness.
  • Medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce swelling and pain and analgesics to relieve pain.
  • Use of a cervical collar, cervical pillows, or neck traction may also be recommended to stabilize the neck and improve alignment.
  • Injections of steroid medications around the affected nerve root, commonly known as nerve root or epidural injections, can be considered for pain relief as well.

Surgical Treatment:

If symptoms persist despite nonoperative care, or if there is substantial motor weakness, surgical treatment is recommended and generally has excellent outcomes.  In fact, cervical spine surgery generally has the best outcomes of any spinal operation.  Surgical treatment generally involves relieving the pressure off of the affected nerve root.  Depending on the circumstances, it may be performed either from the front (anterior) or back (posterior) of the neck, although the anterior approach is more common.

Some of the surgical spine procedures used to treat cervical radiculopathy at the Emory Orthopaedics and Spine Center are:

At the Emory Orthopaedic & Spine Center, our internationally-recognized spine surgeons research, pioneer and refine the most effective approaches to treating a variety of spine conditions.

Should you make an appointment with an Emory spine specialist? Take our five minute quiz and find out!

About Dr. Rhee

John Rhee, MDJohn M. Rhee, MD, is a Spinal Surgeon and Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery specializing in cervical spine surgery, lumbar spine surgery, complex spinal deformity surgery (scoliosis and kyphosis) and surgery for spinal tumors. Dr. Rhee is an active researcher and sought-after teacher/lecturer at the national and international level in multiple medical societies. He has served as faculty and been an invited lecturer at numerous meetings and courses on spine surgery. In addition, he has served as Program Chairman at numerous national and international spine surgery meetings. Dr. Rhee has also published extensively in a number of peer reviewed journals and books, and he has received numerous awards and honors. He is actively involved the training of international research scholars and other spinal surgeons and has been the author and editor of major textbooks on spine surgery techniques.

Related Resources

Spinal Tumor Symptoms & Treatment

Spinal TumorsTumors, whether cancerous (malignant tumors) or noncancerous (benign tumors), can develop and affect bones anywhere in the body, but when a tumor develops in or near your spinal cord or within the bones of your spine, it can be an especially serious condition.

Your spine is an extremely important part of your body as it holds up your head, shoulders and upper body. It also houses and protects your spinal cord and the nerve roots that control your arms, legs, and torso. The spine is made up of 31 small bones, called vertebrae, which are stacked on top of one another and make up the three sections of your spine (cervical spine, thoracic spine, lumbar spine) forming the natural curves of your back.

Your spinal cord runs through the middle part of the vertebra, which is called the spinal canal, and extends from the skull to the lower back. Spinal nerves branch out from the spinal cord through openings in the vertebrae, carrying signals between the brain and muscles.

The most common type of spinal tumor is one that spreads (a metastasis) from cancer arising in another part of the body, such as the breast, lung, kidney, prostate, thyroid, blood cells, or other tissues. Rarely, spinal tumors arise from the nerves of the spinal cord itself. Primary spinal tumors are those that arise from the bones in the spine – these are also relatively rare.

The closeness of a tumor to the spine and nerves that run through and between your vertebrae determines the severity of the condition. Tumors can compress and interfere with nerve function, affecting the messages being sent to and from your brain to the rest of your body. Since the spinal cord is relatively narrow, tumors within it may cause symptoms on both sides of the body. Tumors can also weaken the vertebrae, causing the spine to collapse and potentially cause pain or injure the nerves housed within.

Spinal tumors are different for each unique patient since they originate from different areas or develop from different cell types. Depending on where the tumor is, how advanced it is, how quickly it is growing and whether it is malignant or benign, symptoms and treatment options vary.

Common symptoms of spinal tumors include:

  • Pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of sensation or numbness (in the legs, arms or trunk)
  • Loss of bladder/ bowel control
  • Difficulty using arms or legs, inability to walk

Treatment for spinal tumors is determined on a case by case basis and may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or other medications. If surgery is necessary, the goals are to stabilize the spinal column, relieve nerve pressure caused by the tumor, protect the nerves and spinal cord and remove as much of the tumor as safely possible.

For more information about spinal tumors and spine tumor treatment, visit Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center. Our world renowned, highly skilled, specialized and experienced team includes orthopedic spine surgeons, neurosurgeons, orthopedic oncologists and radiologists, all working together to diagnose and treat a wide range of spinal tumors.

About Dr. Rhee

John Rhee, MDJohn M. Rhee, MD, is a Spinal Surgeon and Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery specializing in cervical spine surgery, lumbar spine surgery, complex spinal deformity surgery (scoliosis and kyphosis) and surgery for spinal tumors. Dr. Rhee is an active researcher and sought-after teacher/lecturer at the national and international level in multiple medical societies. He has served as faculty and been an invited lecturer at numerous meetings and courses on spine surgery. In addition, he has served as Program Chairman at numerous national and international spine surgery meetings. Dr. Rhee has also published extensively in a number of peer reviewed journals and books, and he has received numerous awards and honors. He is actively involved the training of international research scholars and other spinal surgeons and has been the author and editor of major textbooks on spine surgery techniques.

Related Resources

Patient Video Story: Back to Life after Spinal Tumor Surgery

“I’m a Medical Miracle!” : One Emory Spine Center Patient’s Experience

Andy ReynoldsBy Andy Reynolds, Emory Spine Center Patient 

In midsummer of 2010, my riding lawn mower flipped over and pinned me underneath. My back was broken in three parts. I had surgery to fuse and implant rods and screws. My pain never went away, so later I had the rods and screws removed in hopes of pain relief.

My pain worsened and more issues developed within the next four years. My nerves were damaged which lead to horrific pain, migraines, insomnia, and I developed Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. I could hardly make it through a day at work, I wore a brace and had seen about 16 different doctors before I was referred to a spine specialist. That spine specialist was my medical miracle doctor, Emory neurosurgeon, Dr. Gerald Rodts.

Dr. Rodts showed me a CT scan image of my spine and surprisingly revealed that my fracture was never repaired, and therefore, never properly healed. Dr. Rodts was in disbelief that I was not paralyzed since my back was still broken.

I had spine surgery November 24, 2014 at Emory University Hospital Midtown. During my surgery, Dr. Rodts worked his magic and reconstructed the damaged area of my spine so my nerves were no longer pinched.

Today, I don’t have a single issue left from my incident and my life has changed drastically. I went from enduring a multitude of health issues, including horrific pain, to being completely healthy and happy. Since my spine surgery, I can stand longer now, travel and go in the pool. I am able to participate in activities I enjoy like outdoor planting and am looking forward to yard work and even getting back on my lawn mower come Spring. I also cannot wait to get back to lifting weights at the gym.

When I look back at photos of me, I can see how bad of a shape I was in by the pained look on my face. My medical miracle would not have happened if it hadn’t been for Dr. Rodts and the spine team at Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center. Everyone was wonderful; it was like a five star experience.

A note from Dr. Gerald Rodts, Jr.

Andy had originally suffered a severe fracture of the lumbar vertebra, at a crucial transition area between his lower thoracic spine and upper lumbar spine. Despite having had surgery to stabilize the fracture, it ultimately never healed. It became a source of chronic, severe back pain. In order to fix the problem, the surgery required a different approach.

The surgery was done with cardiothoracic surgeon, Allen Pickens, MD. With the help of Dr. Pickens, an incision was made on the chest wall (flank) on the left side. A rib was removed, and the large diaphragm muscle disconnected from the spine. The fracture pieces of vertebra were removed, and the spine was rebuilt with a titanium fusion cage, rib bone graft, and two screws and a rod. The diaphragm muscle was reconnected, and the chest wall closed. This procedure renders the spine immediately strong and stable, and the area of the fracture then continues to strengthen as the bone graft heals.

To learn more about the wide range of spine conditions treated at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center in Atlanta, click here or call 404-778-3350.

About Dr. Rodts

Gerald Rodts, MDGerald E. Rodts, Jr., MD,  is a Professor of Neurosurgery and Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Emory University School of Medicine. In addition, he is the Director of the Spine Fellowship Program in the Department of Neurosurgery at The Emory Spine Center and Chief of Neurosurgery Spine Service at The Emory Clinic.

Dr. Rodts graduated from Princeton University with a degree in biology and a Certificate of Study of Science in Human Affairs. He received his M.D. from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York and completed his neurosurgery residency training at the University of California in Los Angeles, followed by a 1-year fellowship in complex spinal neurosurgery at Emory University. Dr. Rodts has served as the President of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons as well as serving as the Secretary. He has also served as the Chairman of the AANS/CNS Joint Section on Disorders of the Spine and Peripheral Nerves. He is also a founding editor of the award-winning website, Spine Universe. He has been selected as one of the Castle and Connelley’s “Top Doc” neurosurgeons in the United States ten years in a row and has received a similar distinction in Atlanta Magazine annually. He is a neurotrauma consultant to the National Football League.

Dr. Rodts manages patients with spinal disorders, and specializes in neoplastic, rheumatoid, degenerative, traumatic spinal disorders, syringomyelia and Chiari malformations. His research interests are in computer-assisted, image-guided surgery and minimally-invasive spinal techniques.

Areas of Clinical Interest:

  • Complex spine surgery and reconstruction
  • Computer-assisted image-guided spine surgery
  • Minimally-invasive spine surgery
  • Revision spinal surgery

Emory Expansion Update: Emory Orthopaedics, Sports and Spine is On the Move

ExpansionTo provide a better patient care experience, two of our Emory Orthopaedics, Sports & Spine clinics in Johns Creek and Duluth are combining. The combined practice will relocate to 6335 Hospital Parkway, Suite 302, Johns Creek, GA 30097 and begin seeing patients in the new location on Tuesday, March 17, 2015.

Below is a list of all of physicians seeing patients in the new clinic location.

If you have an appointment with any of the doctors listed above and have a question regarding where your appointment will be, please call us at 404-778-3350.

Also, Emory Physical Therapy has expanded to a new location in Johns Creek. The practice, located at 6335 Hospital Parkway, Suite 316, Johns Creek, GA 30097, opened its doors on Monday, March 2, 2015.

If you would like to make an appointment with Emory Physical Therapy at Johns Creek and have a question, please call 404-778-6447.

Successful Grand Opening for Emory Orthopaedics, Sports & Spine at Dunwoody

Emory Orthopaedics, Sports & Spine at Dunwoody

Photo from grand opening event at Emory Orthopaedics, Sports & Spine’s new Dunwoody location. A big thanks to Dunwoody Mayor, Mike Davis, Blessed Trinity High School, Emory at Dunwoody Family Practice, Jerry’s Famous Catering, St. Pius X Catholic High School, William J. Mulcahy, Synergy Sports Wellness Institute and all the wonderful people that shared the day with us. We are grateful.

On January 28, 2015, Emory Orthopaedics, Sports & Spine successfully hosted a grand opening event to officially open its doors to their new Dunwoody location.

The opening reception was an opportunity for local businesses and members of the Dunwoody community to tour the facility and meet with Emory physicians, including the newest physician, Lee Kneer, MD, assistant professor in the Departments of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation Medicine. Dr. Kneer specializes in non-surgical treatments, ultrasound, rehabilitation and sport medicine.

In an effort to meet the increasing demands for orthopaedic care, Emory Orthopaedics continues to expand its services for the convenience of patient access across Metro Atlanta. The Dunwoody clinic offers a full range of treatments for orthopaedic conditions and injuries including sports medicine, hand and upper extremities, foot and ankle, joint replacement, shoulder, knee and hip, spinal care, and concussions. It also offers X-ray, physical therapy and an ambulatory surgery center.

“The needs of our patients always come first,” says Scott Boden, MD, director of the Emory Orthopaedics and Spine Center. “We are excited to offer top-notch physicians and convenient locations for high-level, specialized care that address the unique needs of our orthopaedic and spine patients.”

Emory Orthopaedics & Spine has locations in Atlanta, Duluth, Johns Creek, Tucker and now Dunwoody. All Orthopaedics, Sports & Spine physicians bring extensive training and experience.

Emory Orthopaedics, Sports & Spine at Dunwoody is located at 4555 North Shallowford Road, Atlanta, GA 30338.

For more information on all Emory Orthopaedics, Sports & Spine clinic, please call 404-778-3350. Appointments for surgical second opinions or acute sports injuries are available within 48 hours at 404-778-3350.

Emory Expansion Update: Emory Orthopaedics, Sports and Spine is On the Move

ExpansionTo provide a better patient care experience and align demand with available capacity, the orthopaedic doctors and physical therapy clinic currently located at Perimeter are relocating to Dunwoody. The new space will be more inviting for patients, include an outpatient ambulatory surgery center and also be more accommodating to our physicians’ needs.

Thursday, June 26th will be the last day in the Perimeter Clinic, currently located at 875 Johnson Ferry Road. Our new clinic located at 4555 North Shallowford Road in Dunwoody will begin seeing patients on Tuesday, July 1st. If you have an appointment with any of the doctors below and have a question regarding where your appointment will be, please call us at 404-778-3350.

If you have an appointment with Emory Physical Therapy and have a question, please call 404-778-6031.

Advancing the Possibilities in Orthopedic, Sports Medicine & Spine Care

Emory University Orthopaedics & Spine Hospital AtlantaEmory Healthcare is known for its strong focus on patients and families, as well as its sharp attention to detail in Orthopaedics, Sports Medicine and Spine Care. At Emory, we have the most highly trained orthopaedic and spine specialists in the country working together to diagnose and treat a wide variety of orthopaedic, spine and sports medicine conditions. Our physicians use innovative approaches to care – many of them pioneered via research right here at Emory – to ease your pain and get you back to the life you love. We bring all aspects of musculoskeletal diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation together in one location – from state-of-the-art CT and MRI to a world-class outpatient surgery center and physical therapy suite– at the Emory University Orthopaedics and Spine Hospital (EUOSH).

Many of our musculoskeletal inpatient procedures occur at EUOSH, which is unlike any other facility in Georgia. When planning for this hospital, doctors, nurses and patients presented their wish lists, and we worked tirelessly to bring our patients the care that set the standards and raises the bar higher than ever. The hospital has been completely renovated to provide our orthopaedic, spine and sports medicine patients with access to exceptional service and the most advanced, sophisticated technology tailored specifically to their unique needs. The combination of our unique facility amenities at EUOSH and our team’s dedication to truly patient- and family-centered care allow us to provide an unparalleled level of musculoskeletal care to the Atlanta and Georgia communities. Find out more in the video below:

We pride ourselves on being uniquely focused on patient satisfaction and comfort. In fact, we call upon 75 various patient committees and have adopted listening practices to ensure that we fully understand the needs of the patient. Further, we make it a point to avoid being married to any sort of protocol; for example, there’s no limit on patient visiting hours, and family members are welcome to sit with patients right up until the time of surgery.

Our efforts have not gone unnoticed—we’re proud to say that we have over a 90% satisfaction rate among our patients. Every room is equipped with everything a patient could possibly need for a comfortable recovery, including an interactive television that offers hospital information, a “my education” feature, access to the patient’s chart, health notes, and of course, regular TV channels and movie options.

Emory truly strives to exceed patient expectations every day. Learn more about our Orthopaedic, Spine and Sports Medicine care by watching this short video.

At EUOSH, It’s All About the Patient

The Emory University Orthopaedics & Spine Hospital is known for its strong focus on patients and families, as well as its sharp attention to detail. It’s unlike any other facility in Georgia.

In fact, EUOSH is so focused on patient satisfaction and comfort, we call upon 75 various patient committees and have adopted listening practices to ensure that we fully understand the needs of the patient. Further, we make a point to avoid being married to any sort of protocol; for example, there’s no limit on patient visiting hours, and family members are welcome to sit with patients right up until the time of surgery. Our efforts have not gone unnoticed—I’m proud to say that we have over a 90% satisfaction rate among our patients.

EUOSH is focused on teaching and research, and all of our physicians are highly specialized within their particular areas of focus.

Every room is equipped with everything a patient could possibly need for a comfortable recovery, including an interactive television that offers hospital information, a “my education” feature, the patients’ chart, health notes, and of course, regular TV channels and movie options.

EUOSH truly strives to exceed patient expectations every day. Learn more about the facility in this video: