Phenomenal Results

Leading-edge fusion procedure eliminates chronic sacroiliac joint pain.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Karen is painting pain free following SI joint fusion surgery.

The dream of every artist is to sell a piece of their art. Karen Close, who didn’t become an artist until after she retired a few years ago, has experienced that dream on a few occasions, but one such experience stands out above all the rest.

“There’s an art group that I belong to, and we have a show every couple of years in the Visual Arts Center,” the Port Charlotte resident explains. “At the last show we had this past March, I actually sold a piece.

“To sell a piece out of a gallery, well, I was walking on air after that. It’s really a great feeling. I’ve sold other pieces from a booth in a consignment shop in Englewood, but selling that piece out of the gallery was really special for me.”

Karen’s passion for art developed rather by chance. Shortly after retiring from her job as an administrative assistant, she took an art class and found it to be therapeutic for her as she battled through some health issues.

Among those health issues was a back problem that first manifested itself a couple years ago as pain in her right hip. Before long, the pain moved to her lower back and radiated into her legs, which made performing even some of the simplest tasks virtually impossible.

“It got to the point where I couldn’t even stand in the kitchen and prepare dinner,” Karen laments. “I couldn’t stand long enough to even make a salad. I had to put everything on a tray and go sit down somewhere else and make it there.

“And I couldn’t walk any distances at all. If I went to the grocery store, even if it was just a ten-minute trip to pick up a few things, I had to get a cart and lean on the cart and walk behind that. And later, after I came home, the pain was ten times worse.

“I couldn’t even pick up my cats or bend over to clean their litter boxes. And if I sat, I had to sit with a pillow behind my back and with my feet up. The pain even kept me from sleeping. It was very debilitating.”

So debilitating that after a month of trying basic home remedies that failed to resolve the problem, Karen finally paid a visit to Advanced Orthopedic Center, where her husband had once been treated for a knee problem by Dale A. Greenberg, MD.

Root Cause

Upon first seeing her, Dr. Greenberg performed an initial examination of Karen and ordered a set of x-rays and an MRI of her back. The MRI showed that the cause of her pain was damage to the sacroiliac, or SI, joint, which is found between the hip and spine.

Graphic courtesy of SI-BONE®

A dowel-shaped cadaver bone like those shown here are used during the SI joint fusion procedure.

At that point, Dr. Greenberg handed Karen’s case over to his associate, Lee M. James, DO, who began his treatment of Karen in a conservative manner by giving her a therapeutic sacroiliac joint steroid injection.

“It’s a standard protocol,” Dr. James says of the injections, “but the problem with them is that they wear off after a while. With Karen, the first injection wore off after about a year. So, we gave her another. That one lasted about six months. Then she needed another.

“At that point, we decided we needed to take a different approach with her because the effect of the injections was wearing off more quickly each time we did it. That’s when I suggested doing the SI joint fusion surgery.”

SI joint fusion surgery is a low-risk, minimally invasive procedure that is performed under intravenous sedation or general anesthesia and begins with the surgeon making a small incision of less than an inch in the patient’s lower back.

Using fluoroscopy, which creates a continuous x-ray image on a monitor, the surgeon then inserts a small piece of cadaver bone that is shaped like a dowel through the incision and into the joint. The incision is then sewn up, and the patient typically returns home that day.

“This is the closest thing we have to a fix for the kind of problem Karen had,” Dr. James says of the procedure, which is completed in about 20 minutes. “And once we’re done, over time, new bone grows around the dowel, or cadaver bone.

“That’s why we call it fusion surgery, because the bone and the cadaver bone fuse together. We then check with the patient again after two weeks and again four weeks after that, and so far, we’re getting about eighty-percent success with this procedure, which is amazing.

“The only thing we’re not quite sure of just yet is how long the effects of the procedure can actually last once the bone has fused with the cadaver bone. We don’t know if it will last three years or five years, because it’s a new procedure.”

Active Again

Karen had her surgery this past September. Though she has no idea what the long-term effects of it will be, she is greatly encouraged by the short-term results, which she describes as phenomenal.

“I’m feeling pretty good because I no longer have that aching and burning pain that was in my back and hip and going down my legs,” she says. “That tells me that we hit the nail right on the head with this procedure.

“And as far as activities go, I wouldn’t say that I’m ready to dance with the Rockettes®, but the pain that was keeping me from doing things is gone and so that part of my life is back. I’ve even gone bowling since I had the surgery.

“There’s no way I would have been able to do anything like bowling before I went to Advanced Orthopedic Center, so I just can’t say enough about what Dr. Greenberg and Dr. James have done for me.

“My husband and I think the world of them. Dr. Greenberg gave my husband two new knees, and now, he and Dr. James have helped me with my back problem. We love the entire Advanced Orthopedic family. Everybody there is just great.”


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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