Lumbar’s Helper

Spacing device opens compressed discs, alleviates back pain.

When he was 16, there was something a bit wayward about Sammie Brooks that made the grandmother of the girl he wanted to date a bit nervous. To get a date, Sammie had to make a deal with the grandmother.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Sammie gets in a round of golf after his back procedure.

“The thing was, she spotted me right away as a pagan,” Sammie says with a chuckle. “But rather than refuse my presence in her granddaughter’s life, the grandmother said to me, How would you like to go to camp for a week with Connie? I’ll pay for it.

“When she proposed that I thought, Well, how can I turn that down? So I went for it. I had no idea what kind of camp we were going to, but it turned out to be a Christian camp with a Christian message. I have to say, I responded very favorably to it.”

Favorably indeed. Sammie found his “calling” at that camp and went on to become a minister. Since then, he has served as a Baptist and Presbyterian minister and currently serves as pastor at Island Fellowship Church on Palm Island.

As for Connie, well, she and Sammie, now 70, just observed their 51st wedding anniversary. Sammie also celebrated his recovery from a lingering back problem.

“The problem with my back started about four years ago with sciatica,” Sammie informs. “I eventually went to see a chiropractor. The first time he treated me, it was very helpful. But the problem came back. “So I went back to the chiropractor, but no matter what he tried it didn’t work. I even tried physical therapy, but that only worked for a couple days, and the pain was back again. When that didn’t work, I went to Advanced Orthopedic Center.

“I have a couple of friends who have been treated there, and my wife went there for a problem similar to mine a few years back. She was pleased with the experience, so that’s where I decided to go when the pain persisted and I knew I needed more help.”

At Advanced Orthopedic Center, Sammie was examined by Lee M. James, DO. During that initial visit, Dr. James learned of the previous attempts to alleviate Sammie’s sciatic pain.

Because standard chiropractic care and physical therapy failed to ease Sammie’s pain, Dr. James recommended epidural steroid injections. These worked for almost a year, then the pain returned worse than ever.

“The first round of epidurals gave me relief for about six months,” Sammie reports. “The second round lasted a little less, then the pain came back so bad that I could only walk about two feet before it would hit me and almost knock me down.

“You can’t do much of anything when that happens because you’re all bent over. Dr. James gave me another injection in my hip just to make sure it wasn’t actually a hip issue I was dealing with. As it turns out, it wasn’t. It was a lumbar issue.”

A Classic Case

What Dr. James eventually discovered was that Sammie was suffering from lumbar stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spaces in the lower spine, and neurogenic claudication, or pain, tingling and burning that eases when a person leans forward or sits down.

“It was a classic case of stenosis with neurogenic claudication,” Dr. James reports. “And since we had already tried conservative treatments and epidural steroid injections, we decided to take the next step and try the Superion procedure.”

Graphic courtesy of Spine Pain Diagnostics Associates.

The implantation of the Superion spacer begins with the placement of the small titanium spacing device between the compressed vertebrae (left). Once the Superion spacer has been inserted, two arms are opened to lock it in place between the vertebrae (right).

The Superion procedure is for patients with mild to moderate spinal stenosis and neurogenic claudication who have not gained relief from conservative care and are not candidates for traditional spine surgery.
It calls for the implantation of a small titanium spacing device, called the Superion, between the compressed vertebrae. Once the Superion spacer has been inserted, two arms are opened to lock it in place between the spinous processes.

“One of the great things about this procedure is that it’s done in an outpatient surgery center, so no hospitalization is required,” Dr. James informs. “Another good thing is that it does not require general anesthesia. Rather, it’s done under twilight anesthesia.

“Once we have the patient in that twilight state, I start the procedure by making a small incision, about an inch long, in the lower back. The next thing I do is put a little dilator or tube in there, and I deploy the closed spacer through the tube.

“This was a lot better than doing fusion surgery.” – Sammie

“Once the spacer is out of the tube, I open it up and lock it into place. And because the spacer comes in different sizes, there’s no cutting of the bones or changing of the anatomy. The whole procedure, including anesthesia, takes less than an hour.”

“A Piece of Cake”

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Sammie Brooks

Dr. James says patients are instructed to avoid excessive bending, lifting and twisting for six weeks following the procedure, but he adds that most patients are allowed to resume normal daily activities the same day.

Depending on the patient’s condition, several spacers can be implanted at one time. Sammie needed the insertion of just one, between the L4 and L5 vertebrae, and called the procedure “a piece of cake” that he rebounded from quickly.

“I didn’t even need to take any pain medication,” he says. “I just took some over-the-counter medicine for a few days, and that was it. After that, I slowly got back to doing the things I normally do, like mowing the lawn and occasionally playing a round of golf.

“The big test for me was a bridge that we have that runs between Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda. That bridge has a large incline to it, and I recently walked that bridge and did just fine, so I’m feeling great.

“I really couldn’t be happier with the outcome of the procedure. This was a lot better than doing fusion surgery, and Dr. James is wonderful. He does great work, and I absolutely recommend him and Advanced Orthopedic Center to anybody, 100 percent.”

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    • Advanced Orthopedic Center

      Whether you are a professional or collegiate athlete, an active retiree, a "weekend warrior," a high school football star or a hard-working employee anxious to make a difference, the Advanced Orthopedic Center is here to help you feel better a... Read More

    • Lee M. James, DO

      Lee M. James, DO, received his undergraduate degree from the University of South Florida. He earned his medical degree at Nova Southeastern University. Dr. James is board certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation, and pain medicine. He ... Read More