This Is Spinal Tap

A min­i­mally in­va­sive ap­proach to heal­ing spinal frac­tures

Cape Coral Living - - Publisher's Letter - BY KATHY GREY

Are you OK?” some­one asked as she crouched by me on the freshly var­nished floor. “I don’t know,” I replied, rolling to my side. “Let me see if I can move my legs.” I was pet­ri­fied. It was a hard fall, the hard­est I’d ever taken. There was noth­ing to hold onto, noth­ing to lessen the blow. I could, in­deed, move my legs, but I couldn’t breathe well, some­thing I later learned hap­pens when you torque your tho­racic spine. Your in­nards are sup­posed to stay in place in your rib cage, not get slogged around the way they do when you have a blunt force trauma from an ac­ci­dent, or, in my case, a fall. In a few days I was able to breathe deeply again, but the back in­jury plagued me. A month later, when I couldn’t bear to chop a car­rot for my kids’ din­ner or write a feature story with­out hav­ing to lie down on ice, I went in for an MRI and re­quested phys­i­cal ther­apy. The pain was not nec­es­sar­ily gru­el­ing. First thing in the morn­ing it didn’t hurt too much, just like some­one had a fist in my back. By mid-morn­ing, though, I was ready for ibupro­fen for brunch and ev­ery four hours for the rest of the day. By the end of the day, the pain was de­bil­i­tat­ing, and I spent ev­ery evening with my new best friend, the ice pack. I ex­pected the MRI to be nor­mal. But the doc­tor en­tered the room and an­nounced al­most glibly, “Well, we know why you’re in pain. You broke your back.” Tech­ni­cally, the di­ag­no­sis was a T8 wedge com­pres­sion frac­ture with 50 per­cent height loss. And that’s when I first heard the word kyphoplasty. Af­ter the req­ui­site visit to a neu­rol­o­gist and the on­set of phys­i­cal ther­apy, I was re­ferred to Dr. Michael Frey at Ad­vanced Pain Man­age­ment and Spine Spe­cial­ists in Fort My­ers. I won’t go near any­thing with “oxy” as a pre­fix, but Dr. Frey told me kyphoplasty was an op­tion, and that it’s some­thing he’s pretty well known for. I watched a video on the pro­ce­dure and took home some lit­er­a­ture. I could live with this in­jury, ice and ibupro­fen for the rest of my life, or I could take a shot at feel­ing “at least 75 per­cent bet­ter,” as the doc­tor promised. Kyphoplasty is prob­a­bly the most min­i­mally in­va­sive of spinal pro­ce­dures. Un­der guided im­agery, with the pa­tient un­der se­da­tion, a hol­low nee­dle is in­serted through the skin into the area of com­pres­sion. A bal­loon is in­flated to bring the com­pressed ver­te­bra to its nor­mal height, and bone ce­ment (poly­methyl­methacry­late) is in­jected to cor­rect the com­pres­sion. Post-op, the in­jec­tion site was lit­er­ally a dot on my back. The ma­jor in­con­ve­nience was that bend­ing, twist­ing and lift­ing were not al­lowed for two weeks as the ce­ment set. A month af­ter kyphoplasty, I restarted phys­i­cal ther­apy—and my back is much more than that 75 per­cent bet­ter than the doc­tor promised. It’s al­most “back” to nor­mal.

Kathy Grey is a South­west Florida writer and a fre­quent con­trib­u­tor to TOTI Me­dia.

An un­treated com­pres­sion frac­ture (left) may not have ob­vi­ous symp­toms. Kyphoplasty (pic­tured) is per­formed by in­sert­ing a hol­low nee­dle through the skin, in­flat­ing the area. Bone ce­ment is then in­jected to cor­rect the com­pres­sion.

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