Cervical Fusion Helps Patient Get Life Back

Sudden collision on the highway or the sports field can be hard on the neck.

Bay Medical Neurosurgeon Joel Franck says when these ligaments are injured a level of instability or slippage comes in and it can cause a lot of pain.

He says the symptoms are akin to a migraine headache.

Eighteen-year-old competitive ski racer Danelle Devine can relate to that type of pain.

"My physical therapist was saying all the time, you have an instability in your neck," says Devine.

After years of debilitating pain, Danelle finally found a doctor who believed her.

Dr. Joel Franck said, "You're not nuts; the patient has a legitimate problem."

Dr. Franck discovered a way to determine if a patient's pain was connected to the upper cervical spine.

He uses a unique x-ray machine at Waterside Chiropractic, called digital motion x-ray.

The patient basically has a video taken of the neck in motion while under x-ray conditions.

"We're able to see in this very unique study that ligaments are injured," explains Dr. Franck."

If there is an instability then he recommends a cervical fusion.

He describes it like this: "It's a very simple operation, but it's very high tech - almost sci-fi."

"The patient is brought into the operating room and put to sleep. In the back of the neck I make a very small incision and look at the first and second cervical vertebra, and confirm that they are loose."

He continues, "Then, utilizing a radar system that guides me, on my hands like robot hands, I place a very small screw, about an inch and a half long and it's about an eighth of an inch thick, it's titanium, and I place that screw through a small incision that goes just about shoulder level and guide it in using the radar system that's tracking the instrument."

"I get it into c2 with crosses into c1 and I lock the two of them together and that's it. We do it on both sides. Then we place a little sponge that has crushed up bone and live stem cells along c1 and c2 and fuse them. Close up the wound and the patient goes home the next morning and wears a collar for 6 weeks until it's fused. Virtually, every patient of the 35 we've done say the headaches are gone. Way beyond our expectations."

Devine had the surgery in December and finally has her life back.

"I don't think I realized the depth of my symptoms because I guess I had been living that way for so long that it had become my reality. I could read without throwing up, write, walk and shower by myself. I don't know where I would be without Dr. Franck," says Devine.

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