Thrive by IU Health

March 07, 2023

Together as always, back-to-back

IU Health Arnett Hospital

Together as always, back-to-back

After more than 60 years of marriage, you get used to doing things together — including having back surgery in the same week.

Dean Shoff, 87, says he had immediate relief post-surgery for spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis happens when the space inside the spinal canal shrinks. This puts pressure on the spinal cord and the nerves that travel through the spinal canal. It commonly occurs lower back, which for Dean was in his lumbar spine. The condition is often caused by age-related wear and tear.

Some people have no symptoms. Unfortunately for Dean, that was not the case. After suffering with symptoms for a year and a half, he shares, “I could hardly walk a couple of weeks before the surgery.”

Dean and Phyllis Shoff
Dean and Phyllis Shoff

The Shoffs live on a farm in Flora, Ind. Although retired, Dean still takes care of the chickens. He had to stop taking care of them last summer because it was just too painful. He was relying heavily on a walker to get around.

‘Spinal stenosis can lead to the slow but steady loss of strength in the legs,” explains Rayhan Jalal, MD, FRCSC, orthopedics and sports medicine surgeon who operated on Dean at Arnett Hospital in late 2022. “The severe pain caused by this condition can be quite disabling, even if you have no muscle weakness, since it greatly affects your ability to work and enjoy life. The natural course of the disease is one of slow progression over time.”

“I felt relief immediately,” shares Dean. After spending the night in the hospital to monitor his atrial fibrillation, he was able to walk out the next day without a walker.

Dean credits Dr. Jalal for taking a chance on a person of his age and giving him his life back. “I cannot thank him enough and I highly recommend him.”

A few days later, he was back at Arnett Hospital with his wife Phyllis, 84, who had a balloon kyphoplasty procedure — a minimally invasive procedure designed to repair vertebral compression fractures in the spine by reducing and stabilizing the fracture.

Phyllis, a retired nurse, jokes that age has taken both her memory and her height. Several years ago, she had the same procedure and had relief. In the fall, she fell and started having excruciating pain and back spasms.

“Balloon kyphoplasty treats pathological fractures of the vertebral body due to osteoporosis,” shares Erika Ugianskis, MD, interventional radiologist. “Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by low bone mass and deterioration in the micro architecture of bone tissue, causes more than 750,000 - 800,000 spinal fractures each approximately two-thirds are undiagnosed and untreated.”

Phyllis describes the procedure performed by Dr. Ugianskis as “she inserts two needles into the back, and then she inserts tiny balloons through those needles into the broken back bone. She inflates the balloons to create space that she fills with bone cement.”

“The goal of balloon kyphoplasty surgery is to relieve pain and restore lost vertebral body height and stabilize the fracture,” adds Ugianskis.

Phyllis shares that she has three more discs to do and will be back to see Dr. Ugianskis when she does.


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