Years of Back Pain “Disappeared” after Successful Surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital

Gail Evans, a healthy woman in her 80s, had been experiencing severe pain for a few years in her left leg and gluteal region.  Her pain was bearable when she was leaning forward, such as when pushing a shopping cart, but worse when she was walking and standing upright.

In September 2019, Gail went to see Alexander Lee, MD, a specialist in interventional physiatry at The Mount Sinai Hospital, and Assistant Professor of Orthopedics, and Rehabilitation Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Interventional physiatry is a specialty that entails all non-operative treatment of spin-related pain.  Dr. Lee discovered that one of Gail’s vertebrae was pressing against her spinal nerves, a condition known as spinal stenosis with neurogenic claudication, and this was reason for her pain. Dr. Lee treated Gail with physical therapy and injections of pain medication. This approach provided dramatic, but temporary relief.

By July 2020, Gail was again in severe discomfort. Dr. Lee referred her to James D. Lin, MD, MS, a fellowship trained spine surgeon at The Mount Sinai Hospital, and Assistant Professor of Orthopedics, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.  Dr. Lin determined that Gail was a good candidate for a procedure called L4-5 decompression, surgery to free up the nerves in her lumbar spine.

Gail was worried. “The best case would have been not to need surgery,” she explains. But her quality of life had deteriorated along with her disks and joints. She decided the promise of relief  made undergoing surgery during a pandemic worthwhile. Gail was glad that it was a relatively simple procedure—and she would need only one operation.

Dr. Lin performed the successful procedure. “I was expecting much more pain than the minimal discomfort that I easily treated with Tylenol,” she says. She spent one night in the hospital and went home the next day with little pain.

“All of the doctors were wonderful,” Gail says. “All of my pain disappeared.”