Ruptured disc and synovial cyst
They say the customer is always right. And in Diane's case, there was no doubt about it. A hospital pharmacist with intimate knowledge of the healthcare arena, Diane knew she needed surgery, she knew she wanted Dr. Brad Curt to do her surgery, and she knew she wanted her procedure to be performed at the Mayfield Spine Surgery Center.
Diane got the treatment she needed, and today she is enjoying a complete recovery.
As in so many cases, nothing specific caused Diane to morph from a busy working professional into a patient who rated her pain a 9 out of 10. Traveling back from a trip to the Smoky Mountains in October 2016, she began to feel discomfort. Days later, she was in misery. She continued to work, but "sitting was agony, driving my car was agony," she says. She had to either stand or lie down to get relief.
Frustrated by delays in her care, she switched to a new primary care physician, who ordered an epidural steroid injection to relieve her pain, and soon had an appointment with Dr. Curt, whom her chiropractor had also recommended. An MRI revealed that arthritic degeneration of a facet joint in her lower back had pushed a disk forward, creating enough inflammation to spawn a synovial cyst, a fluid-filled sac that was pressing on a spinal nerve. The cyst wasn't large, but it didn't need to be to upend Diane's life.
Furthermore, it wasn't going away on its own.
Dr. Curt spoke with Diane about her options: She could try physical therapy and get another epidural steroid injection after the first one wore off, or she could consider surgery. "I knew the injection wouldn't last," Diane recalls. "I said, 'Let's not waste time. Just fix me.'"
Dr. Curt agreed, and before she had left his office Diane was scheduled for both an injection, which would continue to provide short-term relief, and surgery.
Diane had particular reasons for wanting her surgery performed at the Mayfield Spine Surgery Center. Outpatient procedures at ambulatory surgery centers are associated with lower infection rates and reduced costs, and Diane would be able to get a specific medication, Exparel®, a non-opioid, non-narcotic local analgesic for post-surgical pain. The medication is not available at all hospitals.
Diane underwent surgery in March 2017. Over a period of 2 hours, Dr. Curt removed the synovial cyst and performed a minimally invasive transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) at L 3-4, a fusion that left two small scars in Diane's back.
Most patients treated at the Spine Surgery Center go home the same day. But because Diane's surgery involved fusion, she was required to stay overnight. "She was there for a 23-hour hold," Dr. Curt says. "That included an overnight stay. She was able to recover in the comfort of the surgery center instead of in a hospital, where there could be an increased risk of infection."
"It was like being in a high-end hotel," Diane says with a laugh. "They catered in food for me and for my daughter, who was visiting. I said, 'Don't you have anyone else to wait on? And they said, 'No, you're our only patient.'"
Dr. Curt advised Diane that her pain would return, temporarily, after surgery, and it did. "I spent the first three weeks adjusting," Diane says. "All that pain came back, with a vengeance. Then every day it lessened. You have to rest and take pain medication as directed by your doctor to keep pain under control."
Diane did learn something new during her treatment process, and that was the importance of physical therapy following spine surgery. "It really, really helped," she says. "That is part of my story. You don't do any physical therapy until 2 months after surgery, and by then some of muscles that didn't hurt before are hurting. I talked to Dr. Curt about that and he said PT will help. And he was absolutely right. PT is a critical part of a complete recovery."
Diane, who is in her early 60s, was back at work 5 weeks after her surgery. She is enjoying her garden, taking good care of her spine to avoid any future difficulties, and is looking forward to her next international trip. "I'm incredibly grateful to Dr. Curt," Diane says. "He gave me my life back."
~ Cindy Starr
Hope Story Disclaimer -"Diane's Story" is about one patient's health-care experience. Please bear in mind that because every patient is unique, individual patients may respond to treatment in different ways. Results are influenced by many factors and may vary from patient to patient.
Learn more about the anatomy of the spine.
"I'm incredibly grateful to Dr. Curt," Diane says. "He gave me my life back."
Physician bio: Dr. Brad Curt