Brent Blalock, 69, had been having trouble with his lower back for a long time. The mild pain at first followed physical activity like golfing or canoeing, so he just assumed he had overworked his back, or that it was simply a symptom of old age.
In June 2016 the pain and discomfort took a new direction. “Some days I would have a pain in my legs that I had never had before, and I started having some strange numbness,” Blalock says. “It got progressively worse – instead of experiencing it once every couple of weeks, it was weekly on one leg or the other, and sometimes both.”
He credits Barrett Brown, MD of TN Brain and Spine with getting him into an active lifestyle thanks to his recommendation of minimally invasive spine surgery.
The Right Diagnosis
Blalock’s primary care physician recommended Blalock see neurosurgeon Dr. Brown at TN Brain and Spine.
The verdict was spinal stenosis, a condition in which the passage ways of the spine become narrow, putting pressure on the spinal cord or nerves. After reviewing Blalock’s symptoms and test results, Dr. Brown recommended lumbar laminectomy, a minimally invasive spine surgery which widens the spinal canal and relieves spinal cord or nerve pressure caused by stenosis.
“He is very thorough and he goes into detail, telling you exactly what your issues are and what his approach is going to be,” Blalock says of Dr. Brown. “Dr. Brown and his staff are very, very communicative, and they take the time to make sure you understand.”
The Right Answer
Blalock underwent a lumbar laminectomy at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center in January 2017 and couldn’t be happier with the results or with the team that took his pain away.
“Oh, I’m fantastic,” he says. “I wanted to get my lifestyle back to where I could enjoy my grandkids, and I’m there! I’m fortunate that I have three extremely good doctors – I have not had one single stenosis-related pain since my surgery.”
Blalock is looking forward to enjoying all the activities he gave up because of the pain he experienced before surgery. He can hardly wait to get out on the golf course this summer. He wants to go tubing with his grandsons again, and to hike, bike, and get back in his old aluminum canoe.
Dr. Brown says many of his patients are like Blalock, ready to enjoy an active retirement that might include gardening, hiking, fishing, traveling, or going to grandchildren’s school or sporting events.
“Lumbar laminectomy lets patients resume activities they were not able to participate effectively in because of limitations from the neural compression,” he says.
Dr. Brown adds that “surgery should never be viewed as a quick fix for pain. But for those who need it, lumbar laminectomy can have life-changing results.”