Restored Flexibility: Treating Spinal Fusion
Ray Smithling, a retiree from Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan, recently fell and fractured his neck. But thanks to the dedicated team at the Detroit Medical Center (DMC), he is well on his way to recovery.
Ray was visiting his son when he fell entering the shower. His injury was exacerbated by a condition called ankylosing spondylitis, which has caused his spine to become very stiff and brittle. Dr. Hazem Eltahawy, and attending neurosurgeon at DMC Harper University Hospital explains the condition: the vertebrae of the spine spontaneously fuse together. It is a genetic disorder, resulting in the spine becoming one, long piece, sometimes referred to as “bamboo spine.”
The entire spine is supposed to be flexible, when it is fused in this way, it is very prone to injury. When he fell, Ray was referred to the specialty hospitals of the DMC for treatment of this complex problem. A person with ankylosing ppondylitis generally has a higher risk of spinal injury, not only because their spine is brittle, but also because the stiffness impairs their balance, increasing the risk of falling. In spite of the many concerns – his age, the heart medications he was taking, an older injury to the neck, and the complexity of the surgery – Smithling and Dr. Eltahawy decided to go ahead with surgery, to avoid any future injuries.
With advanced surgical technology, Dr. Eltahawy is able to do a “360 fusion,” stabilizing the spine on both the front and back. Using this technique, Dr. Eltahawy was able to not only repair the fracture, but also straighten Smithling’s posture, which had become stooped from the deformity.
Following the surgery, and wearing only a cervical collar, Smithling has been working with physical therapists at DMC Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan (RIM). He still has a stiff and brittle spine, but between the surgery and the therapy, he’s seeing considerable improvement.
“Before I was just hurting,” says Smithling. “And now, with all the therapy, I feel like a new person.” Dr. Eltahawy’s neurosurgery nurse practitioner Megan Curtis agrees, adding “Every time I hear of a new project or equipment used for spine in journals, we usually start using it. Dr. Eltahawy is always open to the most current products.”
After his DMC experience, Smithling is an avid fan. “I say go to RIM. It’s the greatest place there is. I really would. I never knew there was a place like this.”
To connect with doctor, call 888-DMC-2500.