May 2012 (Part 1)
By Tiffany Polar, OREXer ’11-12
Today I looked at the white board with great anticipation and excitement for seeing amazing surgeries. I scanned the surgeries for the day and the C4-C5 decompression soon caught my eye. I scrubbed in and prepared for the surgery. I wasn’t too certain exactly what C4-C5 decompression is or how the surgery will be performed but I was thrilled to learn. A cervical spine surgery seemed very risky. And cervical decompression sounded like they would be reducing the C4-C5 disc. I was immediately curious if they would be sawing the bone off to reduce some type of nerve pressure. I sat and watched the surgery team prepare the patient for surgery.
I was able to discuss the patient’s history with one of the nurses before the surgery began. I learned the patient had been having very devastating pain with the nerves in his hands and legs for several months now. The patient was in his middle 50’s and had numbness, tingling, and severe pain due to his C4-C5 disc degeneration. The nurse walked me to his X-ray to view the bone that had been putting pressure on the patient’s spine. Looking at the x-ray it became very noticeable how the bone was pushing against the spine. There was also another problem the patient’s C4-C5 disc had degenerated over some time, which was another cause of his pain. I could see the two bones almost sitting on top of each other with very little space in between, in comparison to the other bones which all had apparent space in between each one. The nurse informed me that aging caused this and there was no exact cause of the degeneration or the growth of the bone that had been pushing against the spine. She ensured that the surgeon would be able to cure both problems.
I learned the goal for the surgery was to first reduce the bone that had been putting pressure against the spine. This was done by a sort of sawing off of the bone back to a safe size relieving and reducing the pressure against the spine. It will no longer sit against the spine. Next the surgeon will insert a device to open the space between the bones that had degenerated and had fallen on top of each other. The device will be inserted and slowly opened to allow the necessary space between the bones. The surgery took about 4-5 hours and went smoothly. I was happy to know the patient would be relieved from the horrible pain he was receiving.
The next surgery I witnessed was a left breast tumor re-incision. It was a 37-year-old woman patient who had surgery several months prior to remove the cancerous cells. The doctors found suspicious cells and wanted to go back into the breast and remove more cells to ensure the cancer would not return. The patient was already prepped for surgery when I arrived into the Operation Room and the first incision into the breast was soon to happen. Two senior residents were performing the surgery under the direction of a surgeon. The residents seemed very skilled and it was clear they had performed this surgery before. This was interesting to view because the cells were removed via laser and suspicious lymph nodes were cut out. The surgery went smoothly and hopefully the cancer will not return.