Minimally Invasive

From Back Pain to Pilates

For Kelly M., the past 20 years were spent in and out of pain, in chiropractor and doctors' offices and taking pain medications and injections.  It all began with an injury she sustained on the Northern California farm she grew up on, where her family raised sheep, pigs and horses.  When she was 14, Kelly was hit by a ram. Little did she know that her back would remain injured for a very long time.

At first, physical therapy and exercise helped alleviate the lower back pain. Then, it flared up again in college one day while packing books. Again, she tried physical therapy for several years. She kept an active lifestyle of skiing, horseback riding and other sports, but the pain was always not far away.

Finally in 2007, now married and a mother of two, Kelly realized the pain was worsening and she needed to do something. Her love of skiing and horseback riding were intensifying the pain. She was taking strong pain medications and injections that were no longer helping. After several visits to various spine specialists, she found Dr. Slosar while doing research on the internet.

"Three months before my surgery, my husband and I were in marriage counseling because I had no patience and I was having such a hard time coping with life,” says Kelly. "Within a month after my surgery, we just looked at each other and laughed. It was my pain that was putting the strain on our life, and now it was gone!"

Dr. Slosar's approach to her surgery was very progressive and minimally invasive. He used a new way of entering the spine called XLIF which stands for Extreme Lateral Interbody Fusion. Dr. Slosar was able to access her spine from the side with two tiny incisions, which preserved muscles and ligaments. He then used a small plate instead of pedicle screws, because Kelly's frame is so small. Often, surgeons must access the spine from the front or back when performing a fusion. Dr. Slosar was able to use the XLIF technology on Kelly as well as Bone Morphogenetic Protein (BMP), a modern technology. BMP is a genetically-engineered bone growth stimulator used in fusions.

Today, Kelly is pain-free, back to work as a schoolteacher and enjoying life with her family. She does Pilates, walks on the treadmill, does core strengthening work and exercises with a personal trainer. She recently enjoyed a trip to Disneyland with her family which at one point she thought she would never be able to do because of her back pain.

"It has been two years and my husband and I often look at one another and laugh and wonder when the next rocky road will hit because it hasn't yet! We are both amazed at how much the pain was controlling everything."

New Bone Cement Technology Success for Retired Navy Pilot

80-year-old Marland T. has faced many challenges in his eventful life. The retired Navy pilot and former commander of the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk faced one of his biggest challenges recently when he slipped and fell, suffering a vertebral compression fracture. The otherwise healthy and active senior citizen was surprised to be suddenly bedridden by his fracture.

"The pain was excruciating and I could barely move. I could only walk a few feet," he said.

Common in senior adults and especially in older women with osteoporosis, vertebral compression fractures are painful conditions that occur when the spine essentially breaks under its own weight. The fractures lead to severe pain, deformity, and loss of height.

While his situation appeared grim, Marland saw Dr. Slosar and was relieved to hear that there was a promising treatment for him.

Dr. Slosar performed a minimally-invasive procedure called the StabiliT™ Vertebral Augmentation on Marland. By using two small incisions and an automated injection system, Dr. Slosar was able to inject bone cement into the affected area that had collapsed. The hardened cement essentially filled in the collapsed vertebral cavity. The procedure is unique because it uses a radio frequency energy-responsive system which increases the bone cement's thickness on demand by the surgeon as he is delivering the cement into the affected vertebral cavity.

The surgery took less than an hour and Marland went home from the hospital the next day with no pain. "This is a safer, faster, and less invasive surgery to alleviate this debilitating condition. My patients have healed very quickly and enjoy getting back to their daily activities," says Dr. Slosar.

Marland is thrilled to be back at work again and enjoying life with family and friends. "I lead an active life again," he says. "I can do everything I was doing. I can go to the office, walk, bend over, turn, twist, garden, and go out socially again."

"Marland is just a fantastic gentleman and a testimony to the power of minimally invasive fracture stabilization. It was only a few years ago that we had nothing to offer patients with these debilitating injuries. Now, most are pain-free soon after the fracture stabilization." - Paul Slosar, M.D.

Police Officer Back to Patrol (and Skateboarding!)

It took Shannon K. more than half of his life to finally get rid of his back pain. The 35-year-old police officer, surfer and skateboarder spent many years desperately trying to find a solution to the debilitating pain that was affecting his everyday life.

It all started when the California native was a 15-year-old high school football and baseball player. Suffering a football injury, he began having cramps in his lower back and right hip, and taking a few Advil would help ease the pain. In addition to Advil, Shannon would also undergo physical therapy when flare-ups would occur. This routine seemed to help—for awhile.

When Shannon entered the police academy in what he describes as the best shape of his life, he had trouble sprinting and by the end of the academy, the lower back pain began to worsen. "I was very worried, but I tried to just grind through it," he says.

An avid surfer, Shannon was in his second year as a police officer when vacationing in Hawaii, he was hit by a wave while surfing. "It hurt very bad. By the time I got home, I was in excruciating pain," he says. "The pain was on my right side, lower back and hip and there was now pain in my right shin that was terrible."

Over the next five years, things got worse. Surfing became very difficult for Shannon and he could no longer enjoy skateboarding, one of his favorite recreational activities. He began to have problems with the physical demands of his law enforcement job such as chasing suspects, climbing through windows or even trying to get comfortable sitting in his patrol car. "I was in so much pain. My friends began telling me I looked terrible." He saw many doctors through the years and noone seemed to be able to help him ease the pain. Every day living was an uphill battle.

Finally, Shannon's older brother who had heard of Dr. Paul Slosar from one of his patients, highly recommended he see him. Dr. Slosar examined Shannon, put him through many tests, and ordered an MRI. He diagnosed Shannon with herniated discs at L4, L5 and S1 which were the culprits for the nerve pain and associated back, hip and radiating leg pain he had been suffering from for almost 20 years.

Dr. Slosar recommended conservative therapy as a first treatment, which consisted of pain management injections. This helped for only a day and Shannon's pain returned, making surgery the likely next treatment step.

In 2006, Dr. Slosar performed a micro-discectomy on Shannon to relieve some of the pressure on the nerves. Then in early 2007, he performed a minimally-invasive Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF) using BMP, and placed screws and rods in Shannon's spine to protect his fusion. BMP (Bone Morphogenetic Protein), a revolutionary technology used in spine surgery, is a genetically engineered bone growth stimulator used to initiate bone growth.

The technique, one of many modern minimally-invasive techniques used by Dr. Slosar, also offers a major plus for patients. It eliminates the need for a second surgery to harvest bone from the hip. This was also good news for Shannon.

Today, Shannon is actively back to surfing, skateboarding and is now playing basketball. His job as a police officer is challenging and pain-free. "Dr. Slosar was very attentive, thorough, and honest. He went into great detail with me explaining exactly what he was recommending. I have all the respect in the world for him. He gave me a lot of motivation."

Shannon’s story is remarkable, not only by the fact that he has returned to work as a police officer with a 2-level fusion. Shannon was struck by a car while skateboarding less than a year after his spine surgery. He unfortunately broke his wrist, but his spine held together without injury! That is a good example of why we use titanium screws to keep your fusion protected while you recover.
— Paul Slosar, M.D.