Surgery with one incision easing back pain

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by JEAN ENERSEN / KING 5 News

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KING5.com

Posted on December 24, 2009 at 2:14 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:44 AM

Back pain is the leading cause of disability for people under 45.  Physical therapy and meds help some, but for those whose pain persists, a new surgery that uses one incision can ease the discomfort.

The kitchen is where Pam Pohlar's 10-year battle with back pain began.

"The more I was on my feet, the more I noticed it was hurting more and more," said Pohlar.

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She was a prisoner in her own home.

"Lower part of my back, straight across," said Pohlar.  "I just wanted to sit and cry. It felt so bad. There were days I felt 90, 95 years old."

She took her health into her own hands and lost 45 pounds, but it didn't ease the pain. Then she found out about a lower back procedure that avoids cutting through any muscle.  Through a one-and-a-half inch incision in the back, surgeons fused two levels of the spine together and relieved pressure on the nerves.

"Typically to fix a two-level problem, you have to make two different approaches to fix both levels, and this allows us to do it through one incision," said Dr. Jim Billys, spine specialist at Florida Orthopaedic Institute in Tampa, Florida.  "We're able to treat both of these at one time."

Through the same incision, surgeons secure the area with small screws and rods. One incision avoids the risk of injury to important blood vessels and no major scarring. Most patients go home the same day.

"Most people can have a 70 to 80 percent improvement in their activities of daily living," said Billys.

Pohlar calls her progress amazing.

"I feel 95 percent normal now," she said.

She's back on her feet and keeping up.

"I went to Disney world and walked three days straight. I had no pain whatsoever," she said.

Putting an end to a decade of pain.

Risks of the one-incision procedure include injury to the bowel, bleeding and infection, but Dr. Billys says the complication rate is under one percent.
 

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