Salida resident Scott Collins spent 15 years jostling around as a crane operator. Although he now spends his time behind a desk, those earlier years wreaked havoc on Collins’ back. “Chronic back pain kept me awake most nights,” says Collins. “Sometimes, my legs would go numb.”
Seeking relief, Collins returned to Dr. Adam P. Smith, the neurological surgeon who performed his neck surgery in 2012 at The Medical Center of Aurora. New imaging scans showed an ependymoma tumor had formed in Collins’ spinal cord. The standard approach to removing a spinal tumor involves making a long midline incision and cutting muscle and tissue. “Because you have to remove a lot of bone to get to the tumor, a patient may need a fusion (the use of rods and screws) to support the spine,” says Dr. Smith.
Fortunately for Collins, Dr. Smith is experienced in a minimally invasive approach that requires a one inch incision and the use of dilators, or tubes, to access and remove the tumor. During the May 2018 surgery at Sky Ridge, Dr. Smith made small incisions in Collins’ back. Using a series of tubes, he gradually separated the muscles to create a portal to perform the surgery. After the tumor was out, Collins only needed a few stitches and a bandage on the surgical site.
“This approach offers many benefits,” notes Dr. Smith. “Because I remove less bone, there’s no need to fuse the spine. Plus, we don’t cut or weaken ligaments and muscles.” As a result, patients typically have a faster recovery with less pain and fewer complications. Collins was walking eight hours after surgery and was discharged from the hospital in less than 24 hours after surgery.
“When I left the hospital, I assumed I had been given a nerve block,” recalls Collins. “I later learned that my lack of pain was due to the minimally invasive nature of the surgery.”
Although the spine tumor wasn’t cancerous, Collins will get regular scans for several years to ensure it doesn’t return. “It’s such a relief to be free of chronic back pain,” says Collins. “I feel fortunate to have received such great care from Dr. Smith and the medical team at Sky Ridge.”
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