Spinal Surgery Brings Relief

Firefighter John WhitesellJon Whitesell, 35, was a busy firefighter with no time to slow down. But when he was injured on the job, he had no choice but to take time off. Jon's wife, an ER nurse at Augusta Health, had heard great feedback from other patients about the spine care at the hospital. After weeks of discomfort, Jon sought care from Matthew Pollard, M.D., a board-certified spinal surgeon who founded the Augusta Health Spine Clinic.

An MRI showed that Jon had a herniated disk with spinal instability (spondylolisthesis). When conservative therapies of anti-inflammatory pain medicines, epidural cortisone injections and rest didn't help Jon's severe leg and back pain and numbness, he opted for surgery. "I couldn't work, play soccer with my son or walk across a parking lot—the pain just wasn't going away," Jon says.

"Patients who have significant and recurring pain and disability and haven't experienced relief with medications, injections or physical therapy are considered good candidates for spine surgery," says Dr. Pollard.

Jon underwent a minimally invasive discectomy and fusion. "When I woke up from surgery, my leg pain was gone," says Jon, "and after two weeks, I was completely pain free."

Today, Jon's happy to be back working as a firefighter and playing ball with his son. "I'm so glad I found relief. My life has returned to normal," he says.

Get back on track

Dr. Pollard treats patients who are experiencing pain caused by pinched nerves, slipped disks, spinal stenosis, scoliosis, degenerative disk disease and more. "Augusta Health has the most advanced technological procedures available," says Dr. Pollard. Patients are usually treated with anti-inflammatory pain medications or steroids. Some people get relief after a steroid injection into the spinal canal. But if symptoms last for eight weeks or longer, surgical treatment may be an option.

Dr. Pollard encourages patients to see him if they're experiencing continued discomfort. "I'll be your treatment plan coordinator and your physician," Dr. Pollard promises.

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Augusta Health's Spinal & Cervical Surgical Services

  • Artificial disk replacement. In this procedure, a painful disk is completely removed and replaced with an artificial disk. By preserving motion in the spine, these implants protect the rest of the spine from degenerative arthritis.
  • Minimally invasive surgery. Many spinal conditions can be treated with minimally invasive surgical techniques such as microdiscectomy, spinal instrumentation and even bone fusion. Surgeons make small incisions, often less than one inch long, and use special instruments to perform procedures. The patient benefits from less pain and a shorter surgical recovery time.
  • Bone morphogenic protein. In some cases of spinal fusion surgery, a newly available, genetically derived bone growth factor can be used to help fuse the spine instead of harvesting bone from the patient’s pelvis, a sometimes painful procedure.
  • X-Stop. An interspinous spacer such as the X-Stop is a small implant that fits between two bones in your spine at the level of pinched nerves to relieve spinal stenosis pain.