If you’re one of the 16 million Americans who suffers from chronic back pain, you know how it can affect every waking – and sleeping – moment of your life. Back pain is the sixth most costly condition in the United States – its direct and indirect costs total more than $12 billion per year – and it is also one of the leading causes for work-related absence.

And then there are people like Marla Deulofeu, whose back pain was so bad eight years ago she resorted to surgery. Earlier this year, her surgically repaired back failed her again, causing her incessant pain. Mrs. Deulofeu, 68, was unable to sit, unable to walk, and unable to drive. She thought she would have to retire from the job she has held for nearly 18 years.

Watch now: Marla Deulofeu, who suffered for years with chronic debilitating back pain, shares how Miami Neuroscience Institute gave her her life back. (Video by Alcyene de Almeida Rodrigues.)

“I’m usually very active and I supervise 20-some people at work,” says Mrs. Deulofeu, an accounts payable supervisor with Miami-Dade County. “But this year I started having really serious back pain again. I didn’t sleep, I could barely walk, I wasn’t even sure I could go on living like this. I went to see different doctors, I had physical therapy, but nothing helped.”

Mrs. Deulofeu ultimately scheduled a consultation with Raul Vasquez, M.D., director of complex spine neurosurgery at Miami Neuroscience Institute, part of Baptist Health South Florida.

Raul Vasquez, M.D., director of complex spine neurosurgery at
Miami Neuroscience Institute, part of Baptist Health South Florida.

“Here at Miami Neuroscience Institute, we see a lot of patients who have had failed back surgery and their pain is not improving or has grown even worse,” Dr. Vasquez says. “We have integrated all the specialties needed to comprehensively treat the patient and we have the latest technology to adequately diagnose the revision surgery and identify what is really causing the pain and disability in the patient.”

Mrs. Deulofeu knew from their first meeting that she had found the right surgeon in Dr. Vasquez. “He told me with so much kindness, humility and professionalism, ‘Don’t worry, because we’re going to fix this,’ and that’s exactly what he did.”

Dr. Vasquez wasn’t surprised Mrs. Deulofeu was in such pain when he first saw her scans, which revealed that the metal rods and braces from her original back surgery had almost completely deteriorated and shifted. “Hers was a classic case of Post-Laminectomy Syndrome with adjacent-level disease. We found severe degeneration at the different levels next to where she had had the surgery.”

Before and after images of Marla Deulofeu’s surgically repaired back show how the original surgery eight years ago had failed (left) and how it appeared following surgery at Miami Neuroscience Institute (right)

To repair the original surgery, Dr. Vasquez performed a procedure known as a laminectomy, fusion and instrumentation. “We decompress and release the pressure from the pinched nerves and then we stabilize the spine with metal rods and screws to help support the lower back,” he explains.

The surgery was a success, and Mrs. Deulofeu was walking without pain the very next day. “It was like a miracle,” she exclaims. “I’m walking now and I can sleep. I didn’t even need to take any strong pain killers after my surgery – two Tylenol were more than enough.”

Dr. Vasquez is pleased with her outcome. “I’m expecting that she’s going to have an excellent recovery,” he says. “And now we know what went wrong in the prior surgery so we were able to prevent that from happening again.”

And Mrs. Deulofeu couldn’t be happier. “It changed my life,” she says. “Dr. Vasquez gave me back my life, and I can now do everything I love doing at home and at work. My co-workers say that I’m like a new person.”

 

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