JANET, as a pilot for a major airline, had pain symptoms in her upper shoulders that started eight months earlier. Over time, the pain began to radiate into her arms, ultimately causing some weakness in her hands. She tried physical therapy and some injections which didn’t provide any relief.
She first thought the pain was related to a previous shoulder injury, until she went to an orthopedic surgeon who performed an X-ray. “The doctor came back into the exam room with the X-ray, shut the door, and said in an ominous tone, you have a serious issue with several disc levels in your neck,” Janet remembers. “I was referred to spine surgeon in Denver who did an MRI and said I needed a 3-level fusion of my neck. But that would remove most of the movement in my neck, and could have adversely affected my career as a pilot. I asked my orthopedic surgeon for a different spine surgeon for a second opinion, and he recommended Dr. Jatana.
“Dr. Jatana evaluated my neck and reviewed my MRI,” Janet says. “He had a much different opinion. He said it was really only ONE that was causing my symptoms, rather than all three discs. He felt that if I had an artificial disc at that level, it would reduce further problems at the two other levels, and he was right.”
Janet had a Mobi-C artificial disc inserted at C-4/5. “I had surgery at 3pm in the afternoon, and was home around 7pm that same night pain free and eating dinner.”
Dr. Sanjay Jatana notes that while spinal fusion has been the traditional treatment for herniated discs in the neck, the latest research has shown that the artificial disc is the best way to prevent herniations to other discs in the neck.
“With the neck there are only seven levels and they are crucial to preserving the national rotation of the neck,” he explains. “But many older surgeons are not trained in artificial disc surgery, so they often recommend a fusion that no longer is the current or best approach. The Mobi-C disc is FDA-approved for two levels if necessary.”
Now several months later, Janet is pain free and back in the cockpit flying her normal routes. She is also back to all of her recreational activities including swimming and kayaking.
“A spinal fusion would have been devastating to me,” Janet adds. “Swimming, kayaking, and my job as a pilot requires constant neck motion. And if I had a fusion, flying would have been a challenge. Dr. Jatana from the beginning was very confident in his approach which was very reassuring.”