Finding relief from chronic pain

October 11, 2017
Finding relief from chronic pain

From left are Neurosurgeon Quang Ma, DO; Lisa Hemme; Harry Navarro; and Neurosurgeon Kamran Parsa, DO.

Minimally invasive spinal fusion surgery at Palmdale Regional is providing an effective treatment option for select patients, using advanced nanoLOCK™ technology to support better, faster healing. Here, two patients share their stories.

Lisa Hemme enjoyed good health until her car was hit by another driver in September 2016. “I felt the pain right away,” she says.

After the accident, she had bad headaches and pain in her neck that went all the way down her back. She also had numbness in her fingers and hands. “I was so afraid I was going to make the injury worse,” she says. “I felt like I was in limbo.”

Reluctant about taking medication, she was determined to find a treatment that was right for her. After meeting with four different doctors, she decided on spinal fusion surgery with Neurosurgeon Kamran Parsa, DO. He had an “encouraging” manner that stood out, she says.

A week after she met him, she had the procedure to fuse three vertebrae in her back together. “The procedure went better than I could have ever imagined,” Hemme says. “It was just very organized.”

It takes time to fully recover, and Hemme notes that she has had to manage certain limitations; but she is getting stronger. “It has helped me,” she says. “It has caused me not to have that chronic pain.”

When Harry Navarro was just 19 years old serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, a boulder slid down a hill and hit him on the shoulder while he was building a bridge in Okinawa, Japan.

He had an X-ray and was found to be okay, but years later, the injury began to cause him severe headaches. “It was worse than a migraine,” he says. “My ears would ring. Some days I wouldn’t sleep at all because of the headache and the pain.”

For years, he took medication, but the pain kept getting worse. “I started getting anxiety because I know that’s not healthy, not sleeping properly,” he says. Through his medical coverage as a veteran, he was eventually deemed a candidate for surgery. He had a spinal fusion procedure with Dr. Parsa on April 10, 2017.

Since the surgery, Navarro’s chronic headaches have stopped, and he is working on his recovery. He is planning a second surgery with Dr. Parsa on his lumbar spine to treat pain he is having in his lower back. “Dr. Parsa did an outstanding job,” he says. “The staff at Palmdale Regional went above and beyond for all my needs.”

What is fusion?

Spinal fusion surgery involves joining two or more vertebrae permanently together. It causes some limitations in range of motion, but the goal is to help stabilize the spine and provide pain relief. Fusion is performed by removing the discs between the vertebrae and putting in titanium implants for stabilization. The objective is for the vertebrae and implants to fuse together and become one solid block of bone, Dr. Parsa explains.

To help speed the fusion process, Dr. Parsa and fellow neurosurgeon Quang Ma, DO, use a Titan Spine implant that can help to promote bone growth. A key feature is the device’s nanoLOCK Surface Technology, which is specially designed to help cells stick to the implant. “The idea with all fusion surgery is to get the fusion to occur faster,” notes Dr. Ma, who regularly collaborates with Dr. Parsa in surgical procedures. Quicker fusion can support faster return to work, reduced chance of needing more surgery later, less pain and less narcotic use, he says. With nanoLOCK, fusion that used to take nine to 15 months is happening at four weeks for some patients, Dr. Parsa says.

Dr. Parsa and Dr. Ma note that pain is usually treated first with non-surgical options, and surgery is recommended only for select patients. Fusion may be used to treat different conditions, including “revision” surgery for patients who did not get the desired results with a prior procedure. Talk with your doctor if you have pain or other problems.