3 Level Cervical ADR - Canadian Doctor

July, 2013

I am a 59 year old Canadian Doctor specializing in non-surgical joint and spinal conditions, and this spring I had a very complicated cervical revision procedure at C3/4, plus new artificial disks at cervical (neck) levels C4/5 and C6/7, successfully performed by Prof. Dr. Bertagnoli at Pro-Spine in Bogen, Germany.

As a result of degenerative disc disease in my cervical area and a previous fusion at C3/4, which was botched and negligently performed by a Vancouver, Canadian Neurosurgeon in 2010, I was in acute chronic pain from a large osteophyte complex impinging on my spinal canal and on both foramina and at C3/4, and degenerative disc disease at C4/5 and C6/7, (note: C5/6 previous stable fusion). These escalating pain generators were extremely limiting my ability to work and carry on my normal recreational/life activities. The search for a spinal surgeon who could deal with these maladies was exhausted in North America and the medical experts I saw in Canada thought that remediation for my cervical problems was impossible, they dead-ended my case. Aside from narcotic pain medicine, most neurosurgeons would not take my case or indicated they would make it worse. Some even tried to cover up my condition. Many North American patients would agree that when it comes to making referrals, the lack of knowledge or inability of surgeons to find someone who can help you in their immediate surroundings or beyond is really reflective of substandard patient care. In general, North American surgeons turn their backs on patients who are beyond their level of expertise/competence and accept this substandard care as the norm.

I was searching for neurosurgeons in Europe and Asia but the websites were not always helpful even when I sent disk copies of my cervical spine to overseas clinics, they had nothing to offer in terms of a medical opinion or options available. They either stated that surgery was not recommended or that I would need to come to them for a physical examination/ further testing, before they would give a medical opinion. Eventually, one of my own patients performed an extensive search which included the Pro-Spine website with Prof. Dr. Bertagnoli in March 2013.

The Pro-Spine website was very professional, Prof. Dr. Bertagnoli’s credentials extraordinary, the myth-busters information was valuable and I was impressed that he could use any type of artificial disk prosthesis he thought was appropriate for his patient and was not contractually tied to particular brand. And most importantly, as an engineer, Prof. Dr. Bertagnoli was involved in the design of the total disk prosthesis for the ADR-artificial disk replacement. Prof. Dr. Bertagnoli also performed difficult and complex surgeries.

Where surgery is truly necessitated, especially relating to structural or significant pain generators, as well as retarding degenerative disc disease before an ADR is deemed impossible, Prof. Dr. Bertagnoli is renowned at this prevention in purview of the general area affected (i.e. cervical or lumbar) and using either ADR’s where applicable and fusion when necessary in order to afford the patient the most optimum mobility and long term restoration. Prof. Dr. Bertagnoli and team look with a wide angle lens at your spinal problem, not based on segmental or reactionary approach as often applied in North America (i.e. waiting too long to implant an ADR to a degenerative disc segment), thereby leaving the option of a fusion as one of the only possibilities. A single fusion in the long term may negatively affect the mobility of the vertebral segments and discs above and below the fusion.

Once I contacted Pro-Spine, the response was timely, professional, informative and personal. If I was serious I was encouraged by Pro-Spine to obtain a new MRI taken with a newer 2X machine at a private clinic in Canada. My computer tech uploaded the new MRI disk, along with other X-rays, CT scan disks to the Pro-Spine website, plus completing the questionnaire, where the doctors could view them in a timely manner. Dr. Fenk-Mayer, a Pro-Spine spinal surgeon, was very helpful in assisting Prof. Dr. Bertagnoli with my case evaluation .After having all my questions answered via email and after receiving the Pro-Spine proposed surgical plan and cost estimate, I had my surgery scheduled for 5 weeks later on April 30th, 2013. Tim Vicknair in the US was helpful in guiding us through the wire transfer of funds.

My doctor in Vancouver who had performed the fusion at cervical C5/6 (not the surgeon who performed C3/4), in 2010 was very skeptical when I told him I was having surgery in Germany. Despite his 30 years of surgical experience in Canada, it was surprising how little he knew about the advancements in neuro surgery technology available in Germany today. Prof. Dr. Bertagnoli is the current German representative of ISMISS - International Society for Minimal Intervention in Spinal Surgery and he told us that he recently spoke in this capacity to doctors in Vancouver, Canada in early April 2013, just three weeks prior to my surgery in Bogen. It really is a small world!

We arrived at the Munich airport, with Peter Hoch to greet us and drive us to Bogen. I would advise a potential Pro-Spine client to read the website information thoroughly because all the information given is correct and helpful. Bogen is a small, friendly, clean and safe community. The people are helpful even though most town folk are German speaking , they do their upmost to communicate. Of course, the doctors speak fluent English and once you check into the hospital they are very efficient and thorough with medical tests, paperwork and explaining everything and answering any questions you may have. The hospital is extremely clean and they maintain a sterile, clean environment, like a hospital should be and what is often lacking in North American hospitals.

The day prior to surgery, we meet another couple from North America who had just arrived for surgery, so it was pleasant to visit with them. After checking into the Bogen hospital for the day prior to surgery, I had both a CT scan and X-ray tests taken and then followed by meetings with both Dr. Masyk, the anesthetist and with Prof. Dr. Bertagnoli, the spinal surgeon. Both were exceptionally warm and approachable professionals who did not appear to be hurried at all during our meetings. Prof. Dr. Bertagnoli brought paper copies of my spinal images and sketched on the images while he explained what he intended to do to restore my cervical spine. Prof. Dr. Bertagnoli was extremely personable warm, confident, and very detailed in his surgical explanations and implications. Dr. Bertagnoli allowed time for any patient questions or comments.

The next morning’s surgery lasted about 5 ½ hours, as he took the time to get everything done with finesse, foresight and vision. Prof. Dr. Bertagnoli saw both my partner and me on a couple of occasions during my hospital stay to follow up on my progress. The aftercare in ICU was exemplary, lots of personal touch based care with several doctors (Dr. Fenk-Mayer, Dr. Suzann Nickl), physiotherapists, radiologists, nurses, and the much appreciated, ever present cleaning staff. Pro-Spine patient coordinator, Renate Hein was always ready with a smile to assist where required, as well as Susanne Thubaville. They were very effective administrators who are fluent in English.

I would advise any patient who has experienced prolonged suffering prior to restorative surgery, as in my case with 3 years of acute pain, that they make their post-surgery stay in Germany for as long as they can comfortably afford. Complications can happen in post care for some patients such as myself. We stayed a total of 4 weeks before flying home to Canada. For instance, like me, if you have been suffering with debilitating nerve pain for three years, then part of your immune system may be comprised and may precipitate variable complications. Therefore, a person travelling for surgery to Pro-Spine should allow sufficient travel and stay over time in Germany, as well as consult in advance with Pro-Spine for their advice.

My own expectation was that I would feel a 70% to 75% improvement in cervical pain post-surgery, but besides the surgical pain I had approximately 90% plus pain reduction from my cervical neck. After 12 days, I no longer needed the pain medication prescriptions that I had brought from home. This is probably unusual for most people, but as a Doctor, I was able to purchase various German homeopathic medicines from the Bogen pharmacies to help boost my systems and finally get away from narcotics. Also, anyone who has had long term suffering relating to a spinal disease will never be 100%, taking into account all related physical areas of general physical compromise.

As a final note, I would highly recommend anyone with a serious or degenerative spinal condition to contact Pro-Spine and Prof. Dr. Bertagnoli , as well as his staff at Pro-Spine.com for any relevant inquiry. They are truly caring, advanced, remedial, and preventative spinal surgeons that can give you your life back! Pro. Dr. Bertagnoli in my opinion is one of the best spinal surgeons in the world.

Dr. Sterling Desmond
Vancouver Island
British Columbia, Canada
July 27, 2013