Artificial Disc Replacement - Indiana

Linda M.
Fort Wayne, IN. USA

On January 2, 2006 I was rear ended while waiting for a light to change driving home from work. It was around 5 P.M., as it was winter it was just before sunset. When I felt the impact of the car hitting mine my head whipped around from the left to the right, and I heard a snap. I can still hear the sound in my head periodically and it reminds me of the sound effects they use in violent movies where someone is being murdered by having their neck broken.

I did not realize that I had been seriously injured at that very moment, however in the next 30 minutes my entire upper body became very stiff and I developed a throbbing headache that I lived with for almost two years.

I saw a chiropractor the next morning believing that the jarring of the accident may have caused some alignment issues. The chiropractor did adjustments and some heat / electronic impulse treatment. By the end of the day my hands were numb and I was having difficulty gripping a pencil at work.

After seeing the chiropractor again and the numbness and loss of strength in my hands began spreading upward into my arms I called a neurosurgeon. The surgeon ordered a MRI and immediately read it. He told me to go home and not to do anything before they could get me scheduled for surgery. The MRI showed multiple herniated / bulging disks putting pressure on the spinal cord to the extent the surgeon felt that a bad sneeze or slip could do damage that might cause total loss of mobility. This was shocking and very frightening news. I underwent a double disk removal and implants of two bone plugs and plates at the level C6-T1 and C4-C5. The surgeons felt the operation successful and I was released from the hospital that same evening. I was not given a collar nor was therapy of any kind prescribed.

Within several weeks I realized things were not getting better. I started going to a sports therapist and along with massage and traction therapy I went on with my life. None of my previous symptoms subsided and the headaches were overwhelming. I had trouble gripping things and dropped things because I just couldn’t feel them in my hands. I went back to the neurosurgeon who ordered another MRI. He diagnosed me with DDD (degenerative disk disease).

The disk at level C5-C6 did not heal as was hoped after the surgery. And the disk at level C3-C4 was now herniated and putting pressure on the Spinal Cord as well. The surgeon talked to us about the options available in the U.S. which was only more fusion. The FDA had not approved any kind of disk replacement surgery for the cervical spine as of November of 2006. He speculated that it would be approved by spring of 2007 and recommended I wait for this approval.

As my quality of life declined and the pain continued I became more depressed and anxious for some kind of relief. In July of 2007 I was seeking out alternatives. I sought a second opinion from another neurosurgeon, saw a pain therapist and had spinal block injections in my neck, tried a long list of alternate medications, and a full gamut of medical testing looking for answers. The same advice prevailed; wait for replacement surgery to be approved in the U.S. In our quest for answers we met some people who had cervical disk replacement surgery through trials that were being done. I telephoned the surgeon who was doing trials only to learn that I was ineligible for trial surgery due to having had previous cervical spine surgery.

I received the name of the disk manufacturer from the surgeon’s office and contacted the company. From there I learned the names of surgeons and facilities in France who were performing the surgery on a regular basis. I also learned of a liaison company in the U. S. who specialized in putting U. S. patients in touch with reputable surgeons in Europe.

This is how I came in contact with Dr. Rudolph Bertagnoli and the Pro-Spine Group. After reviewing my MRI’s and medical tests Dr. Bertagnoli agreed to take my case. In late October of 2007 I traveled to Straubing, Germany and had a double cervical disk replacement surgery. At this time I was barely able to turn my head, nor was I able to look up or down. I was in terrible pain 24 hours a day 7 days a week with a headache that was constant. Terribly exhausting and depressing. I under went the double disk replacement surgery on November 2, 2007. I woke in intensive care with a collar around my neck. I was in the hospital in Germany for 5 days, after which I stayed in Germany for another week. I had my follow up appointment prior to leaving and the Doctors felt the surgery went well and that I should have good success. I was given a great deal of information and details on what to expect and what limitations should be imposed during the healing process. During the months that have followed I have been able to reduce my pain medication to primarily Advil, I have much better mobility in my neck and I am working as much as possible.

I have seen the Orthopedic Surgeon who is performing the disk trials in my area for my 6 month follow up. He reported the alignment to look good and was happy with the improvements in my mobility. He also prescribed therapy to relax and strengthen the muscles in my neck and upper back which have been strained and under constant duress through this ordeal.

Cervical disk surgery is still not where it needs to be here in the U.S. I would not hesitate to recommend Pro-Spine to anyone who is in a similar situation. The fusion alternative will result in a permanent restriction of mobility. It is my experience that sooner is better in caring for this problem as the longer you wait the more healing that is required after the fact. The care I received in Germany was far better than any medical care I have received in the United States.

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