Groundbreaking Surgery Helps Women Get Back on Their Feet

Groundbreaking spine surgery
Vanessa Delgado, with surgeon Louis Rappoport, MD (left), and Perri Henderson, with surgeon Jonathan Landsman, MD, are resuming their lives thanks to advancements in spine surgery techniques and state-of-the-art technology.

A remarkable new surgical technique aided by sophisticated technology is helping Vanessa Delgado, 60, do the simple things again. She's thrilled that she can sit through an entire movie in a theater.

Another Surprise resident, Perri Henderson, 49, looks forward to being pain free and going to the park with her 10-year-old son.

The two women are among the first in Arizona to benefit from a new minimally invasive spine surgery at John C. Lincoln hospitals. Called oblique lumbar interbody fusion (OLIF), "it allows us to use a one-inch incision and go in obliquely, in front of the hip bone. OLIF helps us avoid key blood vessels, muscles and nerves on the way to the spine," said Perri's surgeon, Jonathan Landsman, MD. The distance is only about six inches, but navigating it requires precision.

A machine that looks like a huge doughnut, the Medtronic O-arm, helps. It gives the surgeon real-time CT imaging of the patient's anatomy with low radiation exposure for the surgical team, said Vanessa's surgeon, Louis Rappoport, MD.

He and Dr. Landsman also use Medtronic's StealthStation navigation system to accurately track their surgical instruments in relation to patient anatomy — even as that anatomy is shifting in real time! "We're able to get a safer and better view of where we're going," Dr. Rappoport said.

Advantages of Minimally Invasive Surgery

To access your personal health record through MyChart you'll need:

  • Smaller incision.
  • Shorter hospitalization.
  • Faster recovery.
  • Less pain medication.

Vanessa's Journey

A series of injuries led to Vanessa's severe back pain. A 2010 spine fusion surgery helped, but two screws implanted then had begun to loosen. "It can happen if the bone graft doesn't fuse," Dr. Rappoport said.

During Vanessa's Sept. 28 surgery at John C. Lincoln North Mountain Hospital, he used OLIF and the Medtronic technology to reach her spine. He then fused two vertebrae, using a cage filled with a substance called bone morphogenetic protein to promote bone growth. "She did fabulous," he said.

"I was up walking the first day," Vanessa said. "My stay at North Mountain was a dream; everybody was wonderful, and my room on the third floor was beautiful. Dr. Rappoport is an amazing doctor. He helped me all the way through, including getting me off pain medication quickly. I was happy to have that surgery."

Perri's Challenges

Since 2000, Perri has undergone five back surgeries. "I moved to the Valley from Alaska more than two years ago because of my back. I had to get away from snow and ice to avoid falling and damaging it further," she said. The warm climate worked for a while, but the pain returned. A 2010 fusion of two vertebrae had weakened the two above it.

On Jan. 29, Dr. Landsman operated on her back at John C. Lincoln Deer Valley Hospital. Using OLIF and the Medtronic technology, Dr. Landsman navigated to Perri's spine, placing a cadaver bone graft to fuse the weakened vertebrae. Then he made an incision on Perri's back to insert two titanium rods and screws. Surgeons stabilized her spine and restored it to a normal alignment, with the O-arm confirming it. "Her prognosis is good," he said. "She's healing."

"The nurses at Deer Valley had a lot of patience with me," Perri said. "They worked with me to get the right pain medication. By the third day, I was up walking. Now I'm healing."

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