Posts Tagged ‘laminectomy’

You Don’t Have to be Young or a Pro to Play Sports

Emory Helps People of All Ages Stay Active – On the Field and in Life

At least three times a week, Robert Gaare laces up his soccer cleats, places a pair of protective shin guards inside his socks and hits the field for a scrimmage.

“Playing soccer is sheer joy. Nothing but fun,” says Robert.

At the youthful age of 71, Robert plays midfielder for FC Georgia United – a soccer club for older adults.

“In today’s world, being in your 70’s is not old,” says Robert. “I like to stay active.”

Robert has played soccer since he was a boy. When his adult team traveled to Hawaii for a tournament years ago, Robert’s wife, Cathy Kaemmerlen, and his children tagged along for a family vacation.

“We enjoy a lot of camaraderie and friendship,” says Robert. “And it motivates me to stay fit. I even go to the gym and lift weights to supplement my soccer.”

Nothing slowed down Robert for long – not even two hip replacements. But, a couple years ago, he started experiencing sciatica, a shooting pain down his left leg.

“When I was running, turning sharply and making quick movements, it hurt badly,” remembers Robert. “I could hardly kick the ball. I became a lamp post out there on the field — I couldn’t do anything.”

Unfortunately, physical therapy didn’t relieve the pain. An MRI showed stenosis, a narrowing in the spinal canal that presses on the nerve roots and causes pain.

Searching for Relief

Looking for relief, Robert investigated his options and sought the expertise of Scott D. Boden, MD, director of Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center at Emory Healthcare.

“Robert had a condition in his spine that comes with normal aging – degenerative spondylolisthesis. One of his spinal vertebra slipped forward about a quarter inch,” says Dr. Boden. “Although it doesn’t sound like much, it’s enough to cause squeezing or pinching of the nerves as they run through the spinal column and go down into the legs to control your leg muscles and sensation.”

Not only did the pain prevent Robert from playing soccer, it had a significant impact on his activities of daily living.

To relieve the pain, Dr. Boden first offers non-surgical treatments, such as:

  • Oral anti-inflammatory medications
  • Physical therapy
  • Steroid injections to get rid of some of the inflammation in the nerve

Since non-surgical treatments did not help Robert, Dr. Boden suggested a procedure called laminectomy and fusion, with a bone growth factor to stimulate healing.

“Laminectomy is removing some of the bone and excess bone spurs that cause pinching and compression of the nerve roots,” explains Dr. Boden. “Fusion is joining two of his spinal vertebra together into a single bone to avoid the excessive and painful movement that develops at the level that slips forward.”

Robert was game – determined to stay physically active for as long as possible.

“To stop playing soccer at this stage of my life was too soon,” he says. “I didn’t want to become sedentary.”

“Our goal was to get him back to the point where he could walk comfortably without pain. His situation was affecting his activities of daily living at home. That was the justification for surgery,” explains Dr. Boden. “Playing soccer again would be a bonus.”

Healthy – and Active – to Age 100

Robert is typical of the latest generation of people who are living longer and want to stay active longer.

Dr. Boden says at least a third of his patients with spinal problems are over age 65.

“Fifty years ago, life expectancy was 67 or 70. It was very common for grandma and grandpa to end up with a walker or wheelchair, with spinal stenosis or nerve compression. People didn’t expect to remain active, work out in the gym, or play tennis and golf,” explains Dr. Boden. “Today, people are living longer. They have more time to enjoy retirement, and their expectations are different. It’s not enough to live long. People also want to remain healthy and active.”

Dr. Boden says the specialists at Emory care for people with a wide range of degenerative spine issues and assist patients in their goals to stay active as long as possible – at home or with sports and hobbies.

Successful Spinal Surgery

For Robert, laminectomy with fusion was a success. He slowly returned to his everyday activities, with no pain and no indication of sciatica.

“It’s an amazing difference – before and after surgery. Before, I was managing my life around the pain. Now, the absence of pain is wonderful,” says Robert.

Just six months after surgery, Dr. Boden cleared Robert to play soccer. “When we can help someone get their life back and do the things they enjoy – that’s what makes it all worthwhile,” says Dr. Boden.

Today, Robert is extremely grateful. He looks forward to playing many more soccer games, as well as hiking and biking with his wife.

“For me, Dr. Boden scored a big goal – the winning goal,” jokes Robert.

About Dr. Scott D. Boden

Scott D. Boden, MD, is Professor of Orthopedic Surgery and Director of the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center. Dr. Boden started practicing at Emory in 1992. During his fellowship at Case Western Reserve Hospital in Cleveland, Dr. Boden trained with one of the founding fathers of modern spine surgery, Dr. Henry Bohlman. A primary original researcher on bone growth factor development and spine fusion technology, Dr. Boden is also an internationally renowned lecturer and teacher and the driving force behind the Emory University Orthopedics and Spine Hospital (EUOSH).


Emory Healthcare

At the Emory Orthopaedics and Spine Center our highly-trained specialists work together to diagnose and treat cervical spine and lumbar spine conditions ranging from herniated discs to more complex problems such as spinal tumors and scoliosis. To make an appointment with an Emory spine specialist, call 404-778-3350.

Back Surgery: Should You or Shouldn’t you?

Learn when back surgery is a good idea and what your surgical and nonsurgical options might be, from an Emory specialist.If you’re like most Americans, you’re no stranger to back pain. When the pain interferes with your life, it’s time for treatment. But is it time for back surgery?

Today’s surgical techniques are safer and often less invasive than in years past. But any surgery carries some risks, such as infection, bleeding, blood loss or nerve damage. Always get a second opinion from a qualified spine specialist before you have back surgery. And, try other treatments first, such as physical therapy, cortisone shots or medication.

“Even surgeons don’t always agree on whether to operate or what type of surgery to perform. Back and leg pain can be complex,” explained Emory spine specialist Dheera Ananthakrishnan, MD. “At Emory, we take a team approach and we consider your goals and preferences as priority.”

Back surgery options might include:

  • Discectomy: Removal of the herniated portion of a disk to relieve pressure and pain.
  • Laminectomy: Removal of the bone overlying the spinal canal to relieve nerve pressure from spinal stenosis.
  • Fusion: Connection of two or more bones in your spine to make your back more stable and prevent painful motion between the bones.
  • Artificial disk: Removal of a disk and replacement with an artificial one. Artificial disks are fairly new and may not be an option for many people.

Is back or leg pain affecting your life? Do you want to learn more now? The Emory Orthopaedics and Spine Center in Atlanta can help.


About Dr. Ananthakrishnan

ananthakrishnan-dheeraDr. Ananthakrishnan trained with one of the pioneers of scoliosis surgery, Dr. David Bradford, at the University of California at San Francisco. After completion of her fellowship, she practiced orthopedic and spine surgery for over three years at the University of Washington in Seattle. In 2007, she left Seattle to work with Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors without Borders in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. She then worked as a volunteer consultant at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, before starting her position at Emory University, where her focus is on adult and adolescent scoliosis.

In 2009, Dr Ananthakrishnan co-founded Orthopaedic Link, a non-profit dedicated to improving orthopaedic care in the developing world by mobilization of unused implants from the United States. She is also a candidate member of the Scoliosis Research Society.

Although Dr Ananthakrishnan routninely performs complex spinal reconstruction surgery, an injury in 2012 caused her to reevaluate her own approach to musculoskeletal health.  Her practice philosophy now focuses on strengthening, stretching and general conditioning  (“prehab”) as an adjunct to surgical care of her patients.

Do You Think You Have a Ruptured Disc? Check Out These Signs and Symptoms of a Herniated or Ruptured Disc

Herniated DiscA herniated disc, also commonly referred to as a ruptured disc or slipped disc, occurs when a cartilage disc in the spine becomes damaged and moves out of place resulting in a pinched nerve. You can have a herniated or ruptured disc in any area of your spine but most often it affects the lumbar spine (lower back area). There are many causes of a herniated or ruptured disc including:

  • Degeneration due to aging
  • Wear and tear
  • Injury to the vertebrae
  • Sudden strain or sprain in lower back
  • Sports injuries or accidents

Symptoms of a herniated or ruptured Disc

Symptoms of a ruptured disc will vary from person to person but the most common symptoms of a herniated or ruptured disc include:

  • Severe pain in the back around the ruptured area
  • Muscle weakness, numbness, shooting pain or tingling in the legs
  • Muscle spasms
  • Pain in shoulders, arms, chest, ribs or thighs (depending on where the rupture has taken place)

Treatment for a herniated or ruptured Disc

Most often herniated discs can be treated without surgical intervention. We typically recommend starting a patient on anti-inflammatory medications, ice and heat to reduce the severity of the pain. In some cases a steroid injection may be helpful, and in others physical therapy with back exercises can be added to the treatment plan. If all other options are exhausted and radiating arm/leg pain persists after 6 – 12 weeks of treatment, surgery may be recommended.

If a herniated or ruptured disc is identified quickly, treatments are more likely to be successful. Any one with a ruptured disc should modify their activity level to avoid lifting heavy objects as well as avoid bending or any activities which worsens the radiation of arm/leg pain. Sports activities should also be reduced while healing.

Some surgery options for herniated or ruptured discs are:

At Emory, our nationally renowned spine specialists work together to diagnose and treat cervical spine and lumbar conditions. Emory physiatrists (non-operative physicians) and surgeons use innovative approaches to spine care and have extensive experience that allows us to boast high success rates. Emory is one of the largest University – based Spine Centers in the United States. Our physicians typically exhaust non-surgical options first, but if surgery is recommended, most surgeries for herniated or ruptured discs are performed at Emory University Orthopaedics & Spine Hospital in Tucker. Emory University Orthopaedics & Spine Hospital is a dedicated orthopedic and spine hospital and it leverages the pioneering vision, latest research and medical advances to provide high quality patient and family centered care.

About Scott Boden, MD

Scott Boden, MDScott D. Boden, MD, is Professor of Orthopedic Surgery and Director of the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center. Dr. Boden started practicing at Emory in 1992. During his fellowship at Case Western Reserve Hospital in Cleveland, Dr. Boden trained with one of the founding fathers of modern spine surgery, Dr. Henry Bohlman. A primary original researcher on bone growth factor development and spine fusion technology, Dr. Boden is also an internationally renowned lecturer and teacher and the driving force behind the Emory University Orthopedics & Spine Hospital (EUOSH).

Dr. Boden’s Clinical Interests:
Dr. Boden’s areas of clinical interest include surgical and nonsurgical management of adult degenerative spinal disorders including herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and spondylolisthesis in the cervical and lumbar spine. He was recently named in another Becker’s list of Top 50 Spine Surgeons in the U.S. and is a skilled surgeon with techniques of microdiscectomy, laminectomy, spinal fusion, and laminoplasty.

The Road to Emory: Education
• Medical School: University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 1986
• Internship: George Washington University Medical Center, Washington, D.C. 1987
• Residency: George Washington University Medical Center, Washington, D.C. 1991
• Fellowship: Case Western Reserve University Hospital, Cleveland, OH 1992

Dr. Boden is the proud father of triplets who graduated first and tied for second in their high school class. He is also a baseball aficionado and coaches high school and travel softball teams.

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