The Avera Acute Spine Center helps patients with back and nerve pain navigate through their treatments from start to finish.When conservative treatment no longer works, patients are sent to the operating room. For one Sioux Falls man that meant a spinal fusion surgery.
Alan Barch Jr. works as a personal trainer, but this is his real job, a full-time dad. It's a job that slowly became painful due to pinched nerves in his back.
"You know it wasn't lifting heavy weight or running it was things like everyday activities I take for granted like lifting up your own kids and playing with them running around with them." said Barch.
The back pain was keeping Alan up at night and he began to notice weakness in his right leg. So Alan got checked out by the Avera Acute Spine Center. After weeks of conservative treatment, there was no improvement and an MRI was ordered.
"The MRI showed that Alan had some spine defects that was pinching on his nerves so we referred him to the neurosurgeon Dr. Klopper." said Dr. Jose Santos, a physical therapy and rehab doctor at the Acute Spine Center.
"One of the most common things would be disc herniation, that is putting pressure on the nerve causing sciatic type pain down the leg or arm." said Dr. Henk Klopper, a neurosurgeon with the Avera Medical Group Neurosurgery.
In Alan's case he had disc herniation or slipping of two disks, here between lumbar 4 and lumbar 5 and then lumbar 5 and sacrum 1. To fix the problem the three vertebrae will be fused together in a surgery that will take more than four hours.
"It's done through a small tube and with a microscope and then the screws that we put in for the fusion are done through small incisions in the skin rather than the large opening incision." said Dr. Klopper.
First Dr. Klopper has to remove the defective meniscus disks and replace them with an implant that will keep the nerves from being pinched.
"That involves taking out some of the bone and ligaments that were compressing the nerve and then once you have the pressure off the nerve and the nerve is exposed and opened up, the fusion part comes in where you put in the bone spacer and screws." said Dr. Klopper.
A total of six screws and two rods help support Alan's back as the spine bones fuse together over the next few months. Many of the tools on the table look like they belong in a NASCAR garage. Others can seem intimidating, like the hook shaped tool that is designed to fasten the bolts and screws.
"It slides through the muscle and into the screw heads and then you bolt it down all the way so it's just a way that you can get in there without making a big open incision." said Dr. Klopper.
Alan's surgery is only the first step of the journey. Rehabbing his newly fused spine will take months or even years for him to get back to where he was. Three months removed, Alan is already making huge strides.
"I'm doing tedious exercises that at first don't have big payoffs but you do them long enough and all of a sudden it just clicks and some things of come really far and yeah holding the kids, I had planned for six months and I can already hold them comfortably." said Barch.
The Barch family just welcomed their fifth child into the world so Alan's going to have his hands full. Thanks to Dr. klopper, his back is now the last thing he has to worry about.
Surgery is always the last course of action and is reserved for when conservative treatment measures like physical therapy and medications don't work. For more information about spinal fusion just call 877-AT-AVERA.