Debilitating pain from compression fractures had Terrill Brewer bedridden, but kyphoplasty has her up, moving and even joining aqua therapy classes.

Ta-Da! Her Back Pain is Gone!

Terrill Brewer can’t believe how much her life has been transformed. Suffering with back pain she said was 10 on a scale of 10, she had been bedridden for months due to compression fractures in her spine. In January, she underwent an Interventional Radiology procedure called kyphoplasty at NorthBay Health, and by mid-February, not only was she out of bed and walking, but also participating in aqua therapy.

“Never in a million years would I have believed I’d be doing that,” the 78-year-old Fairfield resident said, describing how much her life has changed since the surgery. “My quality of life is 100 percent better.”

Terrill was living in Oroville when she was diagnosed with osteoporosis about six years ago. Three years later, while sitting on the floor playing with her newborn grandbaby, she twisted to stand up. “I heard a loud pop and felt immediate excruciating pain,” she recalled.

As time went on, the pain in her back became so severe it was seriously restricting her movements and causing frequent visits to the hospital, according to her daughter, Cindy Brewer. About a year and a half ago, Cindy moved her mother into her Fairfield home, and Terrill came under the care of Ali Hassani, M.D., internal medicine physician at NorthBay Health Primary Care — Vacaville.

“He immediately referred my mom to specialists within NorthBay, to care for her osteoporosis, her COPD, her foot pain and her back pain,” Cindy explained.

Patrick Maloney, M.D., neuro-surgeon for NorthBay, ordered an MRI, which revealed two compression fractures in the spine.

“My mother’s pain was so bad, she wasn’t able to get out of bed without help,” Cindy recalled. “I’d have to help her slowly slide out of bed just to get to the bedside commode.”

“I’m feeling so much better, it’s had a domino effect on my quality of life. I’m able to sit up. I am drawing and writing again.”
Terrill Brewer, NorthBay patient

This summer NorthBay Health acquired a new diagnostic tool that delivers even more precise, advanced imaging. (See story, right.) In cases such as Terrill’s, where laying down for an MRI can be extremely uncomfortable, standing up for the EOSedge 3D full body scan can be a wonderful option.

“Her condition was pretty frail, and we felt a lower-risk surgery —  kyphoplasty — would be the best option for her,” noted Dr. Maloney. “It’s the kind of surgery that can improve function for those who have poor bone quality and multiple fractures.”

Christopher Lee, M.D., interventional radiologist at NorthBay, is specially trained in the procedure.

“Kyphoplasty is designed to stop the pain caused by a spinal fracture, to stabilize the bone, and to restore some or all of the lost vertebral body height due to compression fractures,” Dr. Lee explained.

During this surgery, a small incision is made in the back. A narrow tube is placed in the incision and, using fluoroscopy to guide it to the fractured area, the surgeon then inserts a special balloon through the tube and into the vertebrae. The balloon is then carefully inflated, and as it inflates it elevates the fracture, returning the pieces to a more normal position. The balloon is removed and the doctor fills the cavity with a cement-like material that hardens quickly, stabilizing the bone.

On the day of the surgery, Cindy was nervous, but Terrill was not. “I said, take me in, I am so ready. Four hours later, after the ‘la-la’ juice wore off, I told Cindy I didn’t have any more pain. She said, ‘you’re kidding!’”

For older patients a minor fall can cause so many problems,” Dr. Lee said. “Pain keeps them in bed, where their muscles get weaker and breathing is affected. It’s hard for them to get back to base level. This surgery is a game-changing procedure for those who have been suffering with back pain.”

Terrill couldn’t agree more. “I’m feeling so much better, it’s had a domino effect on my quality of life. I’m able to sit up. I am drawing and writing again. And, there’s the aqua therapy.”

“She’s walking against the water current, building up her muscles again,” Cindy explained. “This is not only good for her muscles in her back and legs, but it helps her heart and lungs, as well. These are things she could not do before the procedure.”

“Hey, I’m a tough old broad,” Terrill joked.

Treating Complex Spine, Neuro Conditions

NorthBay Health Neuroscience & Spine is the region’s leader for the diagnosis and treatment of complex neurological conditions involving the brain, including aneurysm or tumors; spine issues such as scoliosis and stenosis; and nervous system conditions such as epilepsy, Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Patients who once had to travel out of the county to receive sophisticated treatment for brain tumors or complex spinal disease can now stay close to home, and those suffering from head or spine trauma and stroke will receive rapid, life-saving treatment from NorthBay’s certified rapid response teams.

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