Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Gives Relief to a Patient After Years of Misdiagnosed Back Pain
Four years ago, Page Bondor, 54, started to feel pain in her lower back and buttocks. Her yoga instructor said it might be related to exercise fatigue, but the pain did not go away with stretching, core strengthening, and posture improvements. A physical therapist’s diagnosis of psoas muscle strain also proved to be a misdiagnosis. After a year of worsening pain, she went to an orthopedist, who sent her for an X-ray of her back and MRI. The results showed she had a herniated disc with severe compression of the nerves. A herniated disc occurs when one of the soft cushions or discs between the vertebrae or spinal bones pushes out and can place pressure on nearby nerves or the spinal cord.
A friend recommended a doctor who offered to treat the herniated disc with injections, but these only provided temporary relief. “By this time, the pain was radiating down my leg. I did the injections, which were expensive and painful,” Page says. “They seemed to work for a while, and then the pain would come back.”
In September 2021, she arranged a consultation with Jeremy Steinberger, MD, Director of Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery for the Mount Sinai Health System. He advised Page that if the injections proved ineffective, a microdiscectomy might be the best option. In this procedure, the surgeon uses a microscope to view the disc and nerves. A small incision is made to reduce the risk of infection and blood loss and allows for a quicker recovery after the operation. The surgeon moves the nerve away from the herniated disc, then removes the herniated portion, allowing the nerve to move back to its normal position. Now that nothing is pressing on the nerve, the pain is greatly alleviated.
“I adored Dr. Steinberger right away,” Page says. “He told me to go ahead and give the injections a try, but that we could always do the surgery if it didn’t work.”
Dr. Steinberger says, “I felt that if the conservative management, including physical therapy and injections, was not providing sufficient quality of life improvements, that with a minimally invasive approach, she could be quickly back on her feet and have significant pain relief that would be dramatic for her.”
One Sunday morning in January 2022, things took a drastic turn for the worse.
“I was home with my daughter when I went to sit down in my usual chair at the kitchen table, and suddenly, I was in excruciating pain. I hovered in between standing and sitting, totally unable to move. I didn’t know what to do,” Page says. “I ended up asking my daughter to call 911 because my leg was going numb, which Dr. Steinberger had warned me would be a sign that things had gotten worse…When I got to the ER, they gave me painkillers and sent me home. But after that I really pretty much could barely walk, so I went back to Dr. Steinberger and scheduled my surgery.”
The microdiscectomy surgery took place in February 2022 and lasted less than two hours. “Under microscopic visualization, we removed a disc herniation the size of a Brazil nut in one large piece. She woke up able to sit, stand up, and walk without pain, which exceeded her expectations,” says Dr. Steinberger, Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery, Orthopedics, and Rehabilitation and Human Performance at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
“The entire experience went incredibly smoothly,” Page says. “I cannot put into words how kind and caring absolutely everyone in Dr. Steinberger’s office was. They went above and beyond for me.”
A year later, Page has made an almost complete recovery. “I am 100 percent fine now, except for a tiny bit of numbness in my pinky toes. The important thing is that I am not only walking but exercising to my full capacity. I would recommend Dr. Steinberger wholeheartedly to anyone. He is absolutely lovely, kind, and friendly, and he has done a great job on my surgery. I never thought that surgery on my spine could be such a pleasant experience, but it truly was.”