Spinal surgery case studies - back care awareness week

05 October 2019

As we grow older, it seems like our bodies can struggle to perform the daily functions the same way it used to. Jim and Rachael* are both in their 70's and, in 2018, were both suffering with severe back pain that led them to see Consultant Spinal and Orthopaedic Surgeon, Mr Am Rai at Spire Norwich Hospital. Both Jim and Rachael also suffer with other health conditions, which made their cases more complex. I spoke to them about their experiences.

Jim, 76, from Dereham had a quadruple heart bypass some years ago and is still under the care of Spire Norwich Hospital Cardiologist, Dr Wistow. In addition, Jim was also under the care of Professor Gaffney, Consultant Rheumatologist, who helped in the management of his ankylosing spondylitis (AS) – a back condition that causes pain and swelling.

“I had been suffering from back pain for about 10 years – I had put this pain all down to symptoms of AS, but it had been increasingly worse over the past year. It had become painful just walking and caused urinary problems too.

“I had been swimming twice a week and attending a fitness class up until last year, as well as regularly going fishing. But I had reduced ability to do these things, and they had all become too painful for me. I virtually stopped living my life.” 

Routine blood tests and an MRI scan at Jim’s annual appointment with Professor Gaffney showed that the AS was not active, so it was not AS causing his symptoms on this occasion.

“Prof Gaffney referred me to Consultant Spinal Surgeon Mr Rai, who advised that my pain was being caused by stenosis of the lower spine. Mr Rai was cautious with me, and rightly so, because we had to consider my heart conditions. Mr Rai discussed some options and explained that if surgical intervention was required then he would need to liaise with Dr Wistow, and seek approval to go-ahead with the operation.”

In order to treat Jim’s symptoms, a lumbar discectomy (a procedure to remove spinal discs in order to relieve pressure on the spine) was recommended.

Jim adds, “It was only a matter of weeks before Mr Rai performed the operation, and it was a huge success.”

Mr Rai is pleased with the results from Jim’s procedure, commenting: “Jim thought there was nothing that could be done to ease his symptoms, but he was doing so well post-operation; he was discharged six weeks later.”

Jim continues, “I am full of praise and gratitude for Mr Rai. All the staff at Spire Norwich Hospital were excellent too. I was treated like an individual. I stayed in hospital for one night and saw the physiotherapist before I was discharged. I’m still under the care of Specialist Physiotherapist, Jonathan Geere, at Spire Norwich Hospital now.

 “If you were to ask me would I recommend Mr Rai, my response would be without a doubt!”

Rachael, 70 from Halesworth, decided she wanted to see someone at Spire Norwich Hospital because she knew what to expect from previous consultations at the hospital.

“My back problem was very severe. I chose to see a consultant privately as I liked the privacy and consultant-led care aspects of the service. I did a lot of research into spinal specialists in Norfolk and found Mr Rai on the Spire Norwich Hospital website. I was thoroughly impressed by his level of experience.”

Mr Rai explains, “Rachael came to see me after spending several years putting up with severe back pain. We arranged for an X-ray of her spine, which showed that her range of movement was poor and the issues with her spine were causing her to walk in an abnormal way.”

A few weeks later Rachael had a lumbar decompression with an instrumented posterior lumbar interbody fusion (removal of discs and adding a bone graft, which helps the bone to regrow). She stayed in hospital for five nights and the operation has been deemed a success.

Rachael is still under the care of Mr Rai. “I’ve had two appointments with him since my operation, and have another one in October.

“Mr Rai was brilliant. He gave me confidence. He knew exactly what my problems was and how he was going to tackle it.”

For further information on spinal surgery and back pain, please contact a member of the private patient team at Spire Norwich Hospital on 01603 255 614. View Mr Rai's profile here.

Please note, all surgery carries an element of risk and the content of this page is provided for general information only. It should not be treated as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional.

* Different names have been used in place of the patients real names.

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