Dr. Krueger showed the ways surgery could help Diane
Talking to Dr. Bryan Krueger about potentially having spine surgery, Diane wanted one question answered: Why?
Why does my left leg hurt all the way down to the ankle? Why is the problem in my spine, not my leg? Why can’t I stand up straight? And finally, why will surgery help me?
“This man told me why. That was a milestone. No one else had done that,” Diane recalled.
Once Diane got all her questions answered and decided to proceed with surgery, her quality of life has improved. To restore the normal alignment of the spine, help her stand up straighter and resolve the pain down her left leg – called radiculopathy – Dr. Krueger inserted spacers between several vertebrae and fused them together from the L3 to S1 levels of her spine. Called an anterior lumbar interbody fusion, or ALIF, the procedure involves going through the abdomen to access the spinal column.
“The source of Diane’s pain was clear. The degenerative changes in her lumbar region were causing her spine to crumble,” said Dr. Krueger, a neurosurgeon at Mayfield Brain & Spine. “This led to her inability to maintain a comfortable upright posture and to irritation in multiple nerve roots, causing pain down her left leg. By restoring the appropriate disc height and angles of the affected levels, we were able to reduce her pain and improve her quality of life.”
Today, Diane is back on her feet.
“I feel like a new person,” she said. “I was being pushed in a wheelchair because of the pain, and now I can walk with no pain. Sometimes I even go too fast, so I just have to slow my roll.”
Trained as a chemist, Diane had always been nervous about hospitals and surgery. But after other measures failed to relieve her pain, she talked to Dr. Krueger about surgery. He showed her images of her spine on the monitor and pointed out exactly where the nerves were impinged enough to cause the pain. That convinced her.
“It was like a class, almost,” Diane said. “He was so professional and so cool about it. Dr. Krueger explained it to me in a way I could understand.”
The surgery followed a series of conservative treatments that did not provide long-term relief for Diane’s pain. After seeing Dr. Krueger for the first time, she tried pain medication and steroid packs. She had several epidural steroid injections, meant to provide symptom relief as her body attempted to heal itself. She tried physical therapy, which helped temporarily, but as she felt better and started walking more, the pain always returned.
For Diane, when she was forced to ask for help with basic tasks in her catering job, she knew she needed to do something. She remembers one doctor visit when she sat hunched over in a wheelchair.
“Every patient’s journey is different,” Dr. Krueger said. “We often are able to help a patient without surgery. In Diane’s case, conservative measures did not resolve her symptoms. The surgery that she needed, while considered minimally invasive, was still a lot for anyone to go through, so we spent a good amount of time discussing her problem, the surgery needed to correct her problem, and what to expect after the operation. She went into surgery with a positive attitude and was ready to get better.”
After her last visit with Dr. Krueger, Diane felt confident that surgery was right for her. Within a few days after the surgery, she noticed that the pain down her left leg was gone. When she returned for a visit two weeks later, she could stand straight up and walk with a normal gait.
“After surgery, every post-operative visit with her was a celebration,” Dr. Krueger added, “She could see her future getting brighter.”
Diane said she tells people in her life that the results are a miracle.
“I am so grateful to Dr. Krueger,” she said. “That’s how much of an impact he has had on my life.”
~ Cliff Peale
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.