A 43-year-old woman is free of back pain after more than 10 years

by:  Alan Villavicencio, MD

Sara is a mother of four and a marathoner whose back pain eventually resulted in an L5-S1 artificial disc replacement surgery, after more than 10 years and two microdiscectomy surgeries performed by prior doctors.

After months of physical therapy (PT) and several cortisone shots Sara started to lose feeling in her right foot and eventually underwent a discectomy surgery to correct a herniated disc at L5-S1. Her back pain, leg pain and numbness decreased for a few years and she began to run again and started to swim competitively. However, the back and leg pain returned with more intensity the more active Sara became, wherein she continued PT and cortisone shots for several years. In 2006, Sara underwent another discectomy and also had several nerves cauterized to address the leg pain. She quickly recovered, but maintained leg pain and significant back pain. Sara continued to swim intensely, but had to stop running completely. Between 2006 and 2011, Sara’s physical activity level continued to decrease and eventually she was unable to do much of any physical exercise without debilitating pain. She was forced to stop swimming and was restricted to short walks and very limited time on the elliptical and stationary bike. It became extremely difficult for Sara to get dressed each day and she would often crawl to the bathroom in the morning. Sitting and standing for more than 30 minutes resulted in extreme back pain as well.

Throughout the years Sara saw six different surgeons and most suggested to have her back fused at L5-S1. Sara began researching alternative surgical treatment options and discovered the artificial disc procedure available at Boulder Neurosurgical & Spine Associates (BNA). Seemingly very happy to finally be at BNA, Sara had the procedure done and is now “100 times better than before surgery.” After one day in the hospital she made an incredible recovery. Sara now runs more than four miles per day, four days a week, and swims 3,000 meters, three times a week. She no longer has difficulty getting dressed, wakes up each day and walks to the bathroom and has traveled to Africa for business with absolutely no back pain resulting from the 18-hour flight.

Preoperative x-rays showing severe L5/S1 disc degeneration and collapse


Postoperative x-rays showing totally restored disc height and normal motion