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Multi-level Lumbar Fusion for Chronic Low Back Pain: Larry’s Patient Story

Larry GolfingLarry, a patient of mine, stands out for his interesting path to surgery and recovery, as well as his strength and perseverance. For many years, Larry suffered from severe chronic pain from multi-level lumbar arthritis, disk degeneration and stenosis, which involved all 5 levels of his lumbar spine. I got to know him toward the end of his story, when he traveled from his home town in Pittsburgh to have surgery with me in New York.

The problems first began in 1998, when Larry experienced a herniated disc in the lumbar region. He underwent surgery to correct the issue, which worked to temporarily alleviate his leg pain. However, Larry’s neurosurgeon warned that if he remained active, it was likely he would need to undergo additional surgery, due to the degenerative condition of the other lumbar discs and the development of arthritis in his spine.

Unfortunately, soon after his surgery, Larry began to encounter chronic back pain that increased in severity with every passing year. In the summer of 2013, his condition worsened to the point that he could not walk without severe back pain and shooting leg pain. Larry explains the pain as:

“It came to the point where I could only walk very short distances and then I would have to sit down for a few minutes to relieve the pain. The walking distances continued to get shorter, the pain more unbearable.”

In 2014, Larry decided to seek treatment with two neurosurgeons close to home in the Pittsburgh area, including the doctor who had performed his initial surgery. Larry found that neither doctor was positive nor encouraging about his condition, because his disease involved too many levels in his lumbar spine, and they felt surgery would not be successful. Both recommended non-surgical treatments, like pain medication and spinal block injections, which Larry tried with little success.

Uncomfortable with his local options, Larry reached out to a friend from New Jersey, who recommended my services. Inspired by his friend’s success story, as well as articles and patient testimonials that he read online, Larry made the journey to New York City.

When I first met with Larry, we discussed the pathology in his spine. He had severe degenerative disk disease of every level in his lumbar spine, as well as spinal stenosis and Spondylolisthesis. I recommended a spinal fusion to stabilize his back, and to open up space and get pressure off the nerves. I let him know that I performed this surgery regularly, and that in my experience it was highly likely that he would have significant pain relief. Here’s what Larry had to say about the experience:

“Dr. McCance was nothing but positive and optimistic. I felt completely comfortable about the impending surgery. His lofty reputation, confidence and positive attitude were enough to convince me that I was in good hands, immediately.”

After discussing his options and deciding to move forward with my recommendation, Larry underwent multi-level fusion surgery. Immediately following the procedure, Larry began to improve and experience less and less pain.

“The recovery went extremely well. I could honestly say that I felt better every single day. That feeling continued for the better part of a year. I am now pain free. Dr. McCance restored my quality of life. Simply stated, life-changing.”

The below x-rays are pre-op (left) and post-op (right) showing the instrumentation used to stabilize and fuse Larry’s spine.

larry xrays

Larry, who is an avid golf player and lover of long walks, can now happily enjoy both whenever he pleases, something that was impossible for him prior to surgery.

“Prior to surgery, I could barely walk and couldn’t even think about swinging a golf club. I am back to doing both, as much as I want to.”

Best of all, Larry can finally hold his two-year-old granddaughter and fully participate in all of the festivities.

Larry and Granddaughter

If you have a similar experience you would like to share, contact my office at 212-360-6500. I would love to hear from you!