Dennis is a self-made contractor who enjoys his work. He takes special pride in restoring his 18th century home in Montvale. But for most of his life, Dennis has battled the effects of a gymnastics injury he suffered when he was only fourteen. His crippling pain left him in agony until he came to New Jersey Brain and Spine and worked with Dr. Patrick Roth.
Dennis Kavanagh | Patient Testimonial | Spinal Fusion Surgery
I love this house, we love this house, my wife and I and that’s why we bought it because it was an old stone house and we love old stone homes.
Dennis is a self-made contractor who enjoys his work. He takes special pride in restoring his 18th century home in Montvale.
The ceiling had collapsed. There was no closet here. I had to gut the whole bathroom.
It’s grueling work in the best of circumstances.
I stripped the paneling down…
But for most of his life, Dennis has battled the effects of a gymnastics injury he suffered when he was only fourteen.
I hyper-extended my spine.. and I was in such pain that I was crawling across the floor. The entire class just gasped because it was such a horrific thing to see.
For decades after the injury even the most benign movement could trigger a cascade of agony.
And my back would spasm and I would just collapse. I couldn’t control myself, I would just collapse on the ground in excruciating pain, not being able to breath because all the muscles are locked up around the lungs. So you’re gasping for air.
Despite this unpredictable, crippling pain, Dennis was reluctant to seek a surgical solution.
I wanted to wait until they could come up with something that could guarantee that they could successfully fix my spine. So I put it off for years and years and years.”
People are terrified of surgery, particularly fusion surgery. Nobody wants to come see me and so almost everybody is resistant. What happens to some people, though, it just becomes so clear to them that their quality of life is impaired that they’re willing to do something that they consider desperation.”
And that was the case with Dennis. For years he dedicated himself to core training, hoping that by strengthening his abdominal and back muscles he’d be able to stave off surgery. It worked… until it didn’t.
It got me through all those years, but it got bad. And that’s why I needed surgery, it got really bad.
Now I’ve been a strong advocate for my entire career for trying to build core strength to treat this problem. But in his case, with this particular constellation of symptoms, it’s really difficult to do. I mean this is a guy that was very, very fit to come in to see me to start with. So he tried exercise, and failed. So it was kind or really, we got quick to the point you’re either gonna live with this or you’re gonna try something you really don’t want to go through, which is a fusion.
I said that it’s, I’ve done it all and I’m ready. It’s been a long time. I was ready for surgery.
What people think about fusion is that it’s dangerous, that it’s terribly painful, that they’re gonna lose mobility afterwards. None of those are true.
But there is a big problem with fusion. The problem with fusion is in its predictability.
I thought it was quite predictable, more than 90% chance in his case that he would be happy with the results when all was said and done.
One reason for Dr. Roth’s optimism was that, unlike many who suffer back pain, there was an obvious cause for Dennis’.
In his case it was quite clear he had fractured, when he had this gymnastics accident, the structural part of his spine. It’s called the pars inter-articularis and really it’s a bony bridge between two different levels.
And in addition to the fracture, Dennis’ vertebrae were unstable causing them to slip over and onto the bone beneath.
That particular kind of fracture and the evidence of dynamic instability is a very, very strong indicator of where the pain is coming from.”
So he kind of came in, we looked at his films and we understood why he was having the pain. And the question was, what’s the best way to treat that. So we did a fusion and the type of spinal fusion we did was minimally invasive fusion. But in essence we put bone graft into where the disk was and then we used what are called inside out screws so they’re very low profile and very little muscle retraction necessary to put them in. And that’s what we did with him.
It’s a new life…I haven’t felt this way since I was 14 years old, I’d say. I don’t have that back pain any more, it’s gone. And… I can split wood now after having surgery with Dr. Roth. That’s cool!
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We hope Dennis’ story eases your mind if you’re facing spinal fusion surgery. If you would like to get a second opinion or need a surgical consultation, contact us using our website form, email us at [email protected], or call at 201-342-2550.