MountainStar Health - April 15, 2019

Michele Grow usually looked forward to her 5-mile walk, but in a short span of weeks her body began revolting after walking less than half of a block. Pain would shoot down her back and radiate through her leg, settling in her right foot. Michele described the pain as consistent, unbearable and familiar. More than a decade before, she suffered a similar experience (though on the left side of her body); and that had resulted in back surgery.

"When I walked, the pain in my back and leg and the cramping in my foot felt so severe — and nothing would make it go away. Pain medicine couldn't even touch it," Michele said.

Michele dealt with the progressive pain for more than 6 months, until she couldn't take it any longer. She knew she needed a physician's help.

The first steps toward relief.

Browsing online, Michele came across a physician bio for Kade Huntsman, MD, orthopedic surgeon at the Utah Institute for Robotic Surgery with St. Mark's Hospital. The bio detailed Dr. Huntsman's specialized expertise, his focus on conservative and surgical spine treatments, his leadership roles and education - and something about it felt right.

"When I read it, it's hard to explain, but I just knew he was the doctor I needed to see," Michele said. "I'm glad I did. He's so smart and explained things clearly. He said he knew what to do to fix me and make me better, and I absolutely believed him. He started talking about what he'd do and the robotic arm, and I was sold."

Quick hospital stay. Long-lasting results.

Dr. Huntsman identified three herniated discs and an extremely pinched nerve, based on Michele's MRI. He recommended a lumbar fusion and decompression procedure, utilizing the Institute's innovative robot-assisted surgical system.

The state-of-the-art surgical platform contains high-resolution 3D cameras for superior vision and a robotic arm, which moves micro-surgical instruments with perfect precision. The surgeon remains the chief mastermind during surgery, while the robot enhances visualization and provides scaled and minute movements, as directed by the surgeon.

The minimally-invasive, robot-assisted technology benefits patients in many ways, including:

  • Smaller incisions
  • Less scarring
  • Significantly less pain
  • Decreased complications
  • Shorter hospital stays
  • Quicker recoveries

For Michele's surgery, Dr. Huntsman removed the rods and screws from her initial surgery and used the robotic arm to perfectly place six new screws after decompressing her damaged spine. The latest most advanced surgical platform used Michele's MRI and imaging results to customize the placement of the new screws, specific to her anatomy. Michele attested that the robotic technology made all the difference in her spine surgery experience.

"I was prepared to stay three days at the hospital, but I felt so good that I went home after just one day," Michele said. "They had me up and walking that very afternoon."

Why suffer? Pain-free days are possible.

Three months post-surgery, Michele can be seen walking around her neighborhood again. She's up to 1.5 miles now and she'll return to her career at Salt Lake Community College soon. She says she feels stronger, more confident and pain free. She even has words of wisdom for those who might be dealing with daily, devastating back pain:

"Don't wait. There's no point in being in pain for years when we have the doctors and technology that can make it better," Michele said. "Some people hear the words 'back surgery' and immediately freak out. They think they'll still be in pain. Well, I can testify that it's not the case. These surgeries can fix you. I feel so blessed."