Straightening Up

Curing Scoliosis of the Spine

Pamela McMaster, of Findley, Ohio, has suffered with chronic back and nerve pain for as long as she can remember. Diagnosed with degenerative scoliosis, Pamela had two surgeries to correct her spine, in 1995 and in 2005. Those procedures never relieved her pain; and eventually she could not even walk. Her daughter, Mandy Bahe, resides in West Chester Township and encouraged her mother to seek the advanced care available at UC Health’s West Chester Hospital.

“The pinched nerve made my leg completely non-responsive,” said Pamela. “It was too painful to do anything: to get up or to move around. I always said that I would never have another surgery because those had not worked for me, but I needed to walk.”

Degenerative scoliosis describes a side-to-side curvature of the spine, caused by degeneration of the moving parts of the spine. Over time, spinal asymmetry gradually worsens.

After being turned away twice by other spine specialists, Pamela met with Rani Nasser, MD, UC Health neurosurgeon at West Chester Hospital and assistant professor of neurosurgery, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute.

“I immediately felt comfortable with Dr. Nasser,” said Pamela. “He told me he was confident this surgery would be different—my back would be fixed for good.”

On July 11, Dr. Nasser performed a 15-hour surgery on Pamela, removing the remnants of previous surgeries and correcting her crooked spine with a series of supportive braces and cages.

“Pamela had developed a hunchback on top of her prior fusion operation, keeping her from being able to stand up or have independence,” said Dr. Nasser. “We reshaped her spine to normal curvature. To do so, we implanted a brace for her spine, with cages held in place by screws and interbody spacers. It was a long operation and thankfully she did really well.”

“My daughter Mandy really stepped up for me. She was always there in the hospital, and she took care of me through the whole process,” said Pamela.

West Chester Hospital offers state-of-the-art technology for spine surgery, including 3D navigation, but Dr. Nasser stresses that while technology is fantastic, the surgical techniques are most important.

No two patients are the same, he explains, as the curvature of spine varies, and it takes thorough planning to get patients to where they need to be.

As for Pamela, she’s planning her next adventure. “I want to get back to traveling and hiking—there was no hiking before surgery. Now I’m gaining my strength, taking the stairs instead of elevators and keeping up with physical therapy,” said Pamela.

Today, Pamela is able to enjoy walks with her four-legged companion, Rascal, an Australian-Shepherd who is as spry and full of character as his owner.

“I’ve seen the X-rays and I’m just so happy,” said Pamela. “Dr. Nasser isn’t just a good doctor; he’s a wonderful person. You can tell he truly cares about his patients.”

An added bonus from her surgery? “Dr. Nasser gave me back three inches of my height,” said Pamela. “I guess I’ll have to change my driver’s license!”

“We want the community to know we are here to offer advanced, comprehensive care, whether it’s a minimally-invasive surgery where you return home that same day, or a more-complex procedure like Pamela’s surgery — our high standard of care is the same,” said Dr. Nasser. “West Chester Hospital is unique in that it is a community hospital with the added benefit of its academic affiliation with University of Cincinnati. Each person is as an individual person, not just a number in the system.”

To receive a referral to a physician specialist at West Chester Hospital, call 513-298-DOCS (3627). Discover more at uchealth.com/neurosurgery.

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