Northwestern Medicine

New Surgery Resolves Bulging Discs Without Impacting Bone

Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital November 10, 2020

Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital Surgeon Among First Locally to Offer New Procedure

Kelly Bodway, 57, of Elburn, leads an active life and loves hiking, horseback riding and riding roller coasters. Months of searing sciatica pain down his leg severely sidelined him but he was concerned back surgery could lead to lifelong weakness or pain. Dr. Peter Lee, a neurosurgeon at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, offered an innovative solution. A new endoscopic microdiscectomy that only requires a tiny incision in the back and no removal of bone.

Bodway’s pain was due to a sizable disk herniation. The bones of the spine are cushioned by small disks. As we age, disks can lose fluid and become dried out, causing a disk to compress and bulge out of its tough outer layer. The fragments of disk material can press on the nerve roots behind the disk space, causing pain, weakness, numbness or changes in sensation. When conservative treatments failed, Bodway’s doctors recommended surgery.

“Mr. Bodway was concerned that the bone removal as part of the traditional minimally invasive microdiscectomy would lead to chronic back pain as he is an active individual. He wanted something even less invasive,” said Dr. Lee. “I had traveled to Germany to learn the new technique and felt Mr. Bodway was a very good candidate for the first surgery.”

Dr. Lee removed the bulging disc using an endoscope, an illuminated 4K optical tool, inserted through a tube the size of a No. 2 pencil. During the surgery, a small two-centimeter incision is made near the affected disc. The muscles are carefully separated to avoid tissue damage. The endoscope is placed through the patient's natural bony openings, allowing Dr. Lee to use precision instruments to remove the disc herniation without having to remove any bone whatsoever.

“The procedure was a tremendous success. The patient had relief of his sciatica pain immediately following surgery with no post-operative pain, and he did not require any pain medication afterwards,” said Dr. Lee.

While endoscopic spine surgery is common in Germany and Asia, it is not common in the United States. Despite being in the middle of a global pandemic, Dr. Lee worked in conjunction with German-based RIWOspine* to make it possible for Bodway to undergo the procedure he desired. Pre-procedure visits were done using telehealth and he remained in the hospital for less than 24-hours after the surgery.

“After months of pain, I shuffled into Central DuPage Hospital stooped over and walked out upright with only a band-aid on my back,” said Bodway. “After a couple of weeks of physical therapy at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital I am completely back to my active life.”

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Kim Waterman
Manager, Media Relations
Central DuPage Hospital, Delnor Hospital, Kishwaukee Hospital, Valley West Hospital and NM Chicago Proton Center 630.315.8090
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