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14 May 2015

Cutting-edge spinal fusion surgery helps retired woman back on her feet

Innovative back surgery helps transform Elaine's life

A WOMAN who couldn’t even stand in a queue or do the simplest of tasks like ironing because of a jabbing pain down her legs is back on her feet after undergoing innovative spinal fusion surgery at Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital.

Elaine Colegate, 67, of Gleadless, has suffered with a back condition that causes the spine to curve abnormally (spondylolisthesis) since she was 32. This made it impossible for her to do everyday things without getting intense pain.

In 2006, she had an operation to relieve the stress on her spine which involved putting a metal frame in to support it. But the day before her husband’s birthday just under three years ago, the pain started to come back with a vengeance.

“I couldn’t stand, or do everyday things like the ironing without getting a jabbing pain in my legs,” Elaine, who has worked in shops all her life, said, “Even going shopping was a nightmare as I couldn’t stand in a queue.”

A visit to see consultant orthopaedic spinal surgeon, Mr Antony Louis Rex Michael, based at the Northern General Hospital, revealed that she was suffering with pressure on her nerves at the level above her previous fusion.

Mr Michael recommended she have direct lateral interbody fusion, a cutting-edge technique which allows surgeons to access the spine by a faster, minimally invasive route. Without this surgery she would have had to have a major operation from the back which would have involved removing the previous screws and rods and inserting new ones higher up in the spine.

During this procedure, surgeons make a small incision in the side of the body which allows them to open delicate tissue surrounding the spine without cutting muscle, avoiding injury to the nerves. Cage and bone grafts to fuse and straighten the spinal column together can then be inserted quickly and easily.

Traditionally the spine is usually reached through an incision in the abdomen, back or both.

Mrs Colegate added: “I felt so much better after the operation, and within a week I was moving about ordinarily. It was such a relief being able to walk and stand, and do a bit of cooking and ironing. I can swim again now, too, as I had to stop going when they found the nerves compressed in the spine. I’ve still got backache, but Mr Michael did what he promised which was to straighten my spine and free the compressed nerve.”

Mr Antony Louis Rex Michael, consultant orthopaedic spinal surgeon at the Northern General Hospital, said: “Direct lateral interbody fusion is very good for patients who have failed to respond to conventional treatments as it is a much smaller operation with a small incision. It is technically demanding with a significant learning curve because the procedure is done with special retractors, X-ray and monitoring of the nerves on the side of the spine, so I’m delighted that it has had a huge impact on the quality of Elaine’s life.”

Direct lateral interbody fusion is only recommended for patients who have degenerative conditions and deformities that can lead to spinal stenosis whose symptoms persist over a period of time and who have failed to be treated with traditional treatments, such as rest, exercise, physical therapy and medication.


Photo: Mr Antony Louis Rex Michael reviews the scan photos of Elaine Colegate’s spine at the Northern General Hospital

Claudia Blake, Communications Specialist
Tel: 0114 226 5033


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