Rosemary was one of the eight percent of Americans reporting chronic or persistent back pain, and for her, it was debilitating. When you experience this kind of pain, she says, “It touches everything in your life.”

She describes the feeling of constant discomfort and the mental stress caused by her lack of mobility.

When it became too great to bear, Rosemary sought help from Stephen R. Goll, M.D., board-certified orthopaedic spine surgeon at Orlando Orthopaedic Center. Rosemary ended up having minimally invasive lumbar fusion surgery on her L4 and L5 vertebrae (lower back). After her recovery, she says, “I feel fantastic. I have my life back.”

 What’s it like to have minimally invasive lumbar fusion surgery? When should you consider this groundbreaking procedure? We have answers that will help you understand how this procedure helps patients with chronic back pain join Rosemary in getting back to health.

Why Would I Need Minimally Invasive Lumbar Fusion Surgery?

If you suffer from chronic lower back pain, minimally invasive lumbar fusion surgery could alleviate your symptoms. Many of the most common types of spinal disorders can be treated with this surgical procedure, including:

  • Adult scoliosis, which is an abnormal spine curvature
  • Degenerative disc disease, or when the small shock absorbers (discs) in the spine break down 
  • Lower back herniated disc, or when the inside portion of the disc bulges out 
  • Spinal fracture, where bone fragments to damage the nerves in the spine
  • Spondylolisthesis, which occurs when vertebrae slip out of its place in the spinal column

The most common symptom of anyone experiencing these conditions is pain. Rosemary, like many patients, struggled with constant ongoing pain. She says it affected her life in all kinds of ways, “I was not me anymore. Anybody with chronic pain can tell you that you have two things going on, which is the pain almost all the time and then the mental stress.” 

When she felt like she couldn’t take it anymore, Rosemary sought help from Dr. Goll’s team at the Orlando Orthopaedic Center. She now calls the minimally invasive spinal procedure “the gold standard” for orthopaedic care.

What Happens During Minimally Invasive Lumbar Fusion Surgery?

Minimally invasive lumbar fusion surgery welds or fuses together two or more bones in your spine called the vertebral bodies. The vertebrae are tiny stacked bones that make up your spinal column. In between each bone is a small intervertebral disc which is there to cushion the bones from rubbing together. When the disc wears away or the vertebrae are disrupted, the pain can be intense. 

Rosemary says, “When I first came to his (Dr. Goll’s) office, I could barely walk.” Surgeons can stabilize the spine and alleviate pain by performing the minimally invasive lumbar fusion surgery procedure. The results are dramatic. 

 Unlike traditional open surgery, minimally invasive procedures reduce the size of the incision used to access the spinal discs. Doctors use special surgical instruments that help them avoid disrupting the surrounding muscles. This type of patient-friendly surgical procedure is a more modern approach that has several benefits over traditional surgery, including:

  • Smaller incision
  • Less bleeding
  • Less damage to soft tissue
  • Reduced risk of infection 
  • Less pain
  • Faster recovery

 Your spine and the muscles in your back work together to allow for the free range of motion and mobility we often take for granted until it’s gone. Rosemary describes her back pain as debilitating. She says, “You are not happy. You are not sleeping. You can’t eat. You’re gaining weight because you have no mobility.” 

Minimally invasive lumbar spinal surgery helps patients heal faster and with less pain because doctors do not disrupt the muscles around the surgical site. That way, patients like Rosemary can heal faster with less pain and recover their mobility more quickly. 

Today, after surgery, she says, “It is a whole different world now. The clock was turned back.”

What’s the Hardest Part of Recovering From Minimally Invasive Lumbar Fusion Surgery?

Rosemary has advice for anyone considering minimally invasive lumbar fusion surgery. She says, “There is no honor in living with pain. The hardest part of all of this is just making the decision. Everything else was easy.”

Before the lumbar fusion procedure, Rosemary describes how her back pain affected her entire family. She says, “The family would take me out. Very loving, very supportive family. But if we went to a theme park, they had to take my wheelchair, put it in a car, then get me there. Everybody had to take turns all day pushing me, despite their aches and pains.”

Rosemary made her decision to have minimally invasive lumbar fusion surgery with Dr. Goll when she met other patients who had already successfully had the procedure. She says, “Every person said, ‘I never had pain after the operation.’ It was not one horror story, one hiccup—nothing.”

The relief of pain is the most common reason patients choose this procedure. Rosemary’s experience was typical. Most patients, like Rosemary, are back on their feet the same day they have the surgery. Rosemary says, “That night (after surgery) they had me stand up and there was no pain.” By the next day Rosemary surprised herself by climbing a small staircase with her physical therapist by her side. She was shocked at how easy it was. Rosemary says she asked the physical therapist, “Would you like me to do that again, faster?” 

Rosemary is now a staunch advocate for Dr. Goll, and the team at the Orlando Orthopaedic Center. She says, “Top people. This is the only orthopaedic group I would ever go to for anything. This is what I tell all my friends. It has changed my life. I can go to the beach. I walk around the mall. With today’s medicine and technology, the surgery is a snap.”