The Rest of the Story

Procedures end pain, disability of spinal fractures.

As an adult, Patricia Martyka, 76, played numerous roles. She was a mother and homemaker as well as a cheerleader and coach for her children. She also worked outside the home as an administrative assistant at a local mill. All of her life, Patricia loved animals. For years, she also fostered pets from animal shelters in her Illinois hometown.

Photo courtesy of Patricia Martyka.

Patricia enjoys time with her dog, ToTo.

Ever the animal lover, when Patricia relocated to Florida three years ago, she kept multiple pets of her own. But as she grew older, she tired of running to pet stores for dog and cat food and hauling the heavy bags back home. She switched to an online delivery service instead, but it was a delivered bag of food that was her downfall.

“I ordered a twenty-five-pound bag of dog food, but when it was delivered, my husband brought it in and put it by the cabinet,” Patricia recalls “When I saw it by the cabinet, I was miffed and said, I’m going to put this in the container, so I bent over and picked it up. I felt something snap in my back and stomach, and immediately, I was in pain and couldn’t move.

“The pain was worse than delivering a baby. It went through the entire circle of my midsection, from my abdomen around to my side and into my back. It felt like somebody was constantly stabbing me. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t sit. I couldn’t lie down. It was awful. Ice, heat and ibuprofen were my best friends.”

Patricia experienced a similar event years earlier. She felt a snapping sensation in her back after bending to take cookies out of the oven. Back then, she didn’t suffer a serious injury, and the condition healed on its own. She assumed this was nothing serious as well and didn’t seek treatment. Eventually, that changed.

“After a few weeks of not being able to do anything, I called my family doctor,” Patricia shares. “He sent me for pain management, and that’s how I met Dr. Cordner. When I went for my first appointment, I was all bent up and in excruciating pain. I had been like that for weeks.”

Harold J. Cordner, MD, is a pain management specialist at Florida Pain Management Associates in Sebastian and Vero Beach. Dr. Cordner has a complete arsenal of noninterventional and interventional services for managing his patients’ pain. His first step with Patricia was to send her for an MRI of her back.

“I sent her for an MRI because I suspected she had a spinal fracture,” Dr. Cordner notes. “Sure enough, the MRI showed she had two acute fractures in her spine. There are several options for treating spinal fractures, including leaving them alone.

“They can eventually heal on their own, but that can take months. Another option is to put her in a back brace and try to immobilize her spine. Or, I could perform a procedure such as vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty.”

During those procedures, physicians place a needle into the bone at the site of the break and inject bone cement to stabilize the fracture. Because Patricia was in so much pain from her acute fractures, Dr. Cordner recommended kyphoplasty for her.

Clarifying Misconceptions

Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty are extremely effective at easing pain associated with spinal fractures, reports Dr. Cordner. The procedures also work quickly, so patients don’t suffer for months in severe pain while waiting for their fractures to heal.

“More than ninety percent of patients achieve good to excellent pain relief within the first twenty-four to forty-eight hours of these procedures,” the doctor asserts. “Patients can then quickly return to their activities of daily living.”

The speedy results associated with vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty are among the reasons Dr. Cordner advocates their use. He clarifies misperceptions from recent reports on studies that suggest providing no treatment for spinal fractures results in the same degree of pain relief as that achieved with vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty.

“Let’s set the record straight,” Dr. Cordner states. “Those studies looked at patients at twelve months post-fracture. Even if you treat a patient conservatively, that fracture is not going to hurt that much a year later. It’s had time to heal.

“What those studies don’t look at is what happens to patients during the acute phase of their injury. That’s when they go to the emergency room, are hospitalized or enter rehab facilities because they’re in agony and can’t function. There are huge numbers of health care dollars going into getting patients through this phase of agonizing pain and disability.

“But we can get patients through that acute phase and back to activity in twenty-four to forty-eight hours with a vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty. The results are overwhelmingly positive in favor of these procedures as far as health care dollars spent.

“In addition, disability, morbidity and even mortality are reduced significantly when fractures are stabilized in the acute phase. Studies have also shown that life expectancy is prolonged with early treatment in these patients.”

Enthusiastic Response

Patricia is one of the 90 percent of patients who achieved excellent pain relief from a kyphoplasty within a short time of the procedure. She’s thrilled by her response to the treatment, which she was eager to try.

“When Dr. Cordner told me he could fix the fractures pretty easily, I remember thinking, Anything’s better than this pain,” Patricia states. “I thought I was going to be put to sleep for the procedure, but I wasn’t. I was awake the whole time.

“I was lying on a table and actually heard what was going on. I was surprised by that. But on the day of my kyphoplasty, I walked into Dr. Cordner’s office in misery, and I walked out pain free. I still can’t believe it.

“I have osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, so I still have some discomfort, but it’s nothing like I had before. The pain relief Dr. Cordner gave me is fantastic. I can lie on my back again; I can garden, use the pool, take care of my pets and do my everyday activities. The procedure was one hundred percent successful.”

Before suffering the spinal fractures, Patricia underwent a hip replacement and was doing physical therapy. After Dr. Cordner gave her the go-ahead, she returned to physical therapy to keep her spine mobile against the arthritis.

“I’m back to doing my physical therapy every day,” Patricia confirms. “I’m not doing it to the same degree yet, but I’m back to about ninety-nine percent as far as being able to do what I was doing prior to my kyphoplasty.

“Dr. Cordner’s procedure at Florida Pain Management Associates is amazing. Medicine has come a long way, and that’s a very good thing.”

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