Sandra Febles, 72, loved to walk on the sandy shoreline of Redondo Beach, but couldn’t. She’d start down the path and then the ache in her back would shout at her to stop and return home. Her spine pain controlled her life and took away the hobbies she loved. It also robbed her of her sleep and overall wellness.

At night, Sandra tossed and turned. She would sit up, stretch and adjust her pillow. Her toes and legs would go numb. She would try lying back down to get rest. A couple hours would pass, and her back pain caused her to turn over again.

Sandra knew this game too well. Every night was restless. She mentally wrestled with the pain in her back, never finding relief from conservative treatment options, like medicines, injections or the physical therapy that was prescribed to her from two different medical professionals. None of these treatments provided her with long-term relief.

“I lived in pain for about three years,” says Sandra. “I was ready to accept that this was just going to be a part of my life. Then, I ran into a friend who changed everything and reassured me that life without pain was feasible.”

Sandra’s friend recommended she stop living in pain and reach out to Amandeep Bhalla, M.D.,
Spine Center, MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center.  Long Beach Medical Center is the only hospital in Los Angeles County with a unique technology called ExcelsiusGPS®. Sandra made an appointment for a consultation.

She met with Dr. Bhalla and they reviewed imaging from an MRI together. Dr. Bhalla explained that she was suffering from spinal stenosis and degenerative spondylolisthesis — one of the most common indications for lumbar laminectomy and instrumented fusion.

Spinal stenosis is when arthritic changes cause a narrowing of the spinal canal in the low back. This narrowing can put pressure on the nerves and can worsen with age. In degenerative spondylolisthesis, one of the bones in the spine, called a vertebra, slips forward and out of place.  Degenerative spondylolisthesis may occur as a patient ages and is a result of wear and tear of the spine. 

A lumbar laminectomy is a surgical procedure that removes a portion of the vertebral bone, called the lamina, and this creates more space for the spinal nerves. This helps alleviate pain, numbness, or weakness being caused by pressure on the nerves.  An instrumented spinal fusion is performed to stabilize the spine, when there is evidence of instability. During the spinal fusion, two or more of the vertebrae may be connected using bone grafts, screws and rods (also known as instruments).

Sandra was the perfect candidate for ExcelsiusGPS to treat her condition. Spine surgeons, like Dr. Bhalla, at Long Beach Medical Center that are trained and experienced in using ExcelsiusGPS. Benefits of ExcelsiusGPS may include smaller incisions, less tissue damage and shorter hospital stays, particularly when it is used for minimally invasive techniques. 

When performing spine surgery — particularly with spinal screw placement— precision is key. Screws and rods are used in spinal surgery to add extra support and stability. Screws are placed in the vertebra in order to stabilize them, while a rod is used to connect the screws, which prevents movement and allows the bone graft to heal.

“This unique technology creates a surgical plan based on the patient’s particular anatomy,” says Dr. Bhalla. “The surgeon then guides the robotic arm to a specific region of the spine, similar to a planned pathway on GPS.”

Dr. Bhalla used the pathway to accurately conduct Sandra’s spine surgery with the utmost precision, resulting in the best outcome, with returning to the activities that bring joy and meaning to her life.

A month after surgery, Sandra reached a personal milestone, walking a full mile – the longest distance that she had completed in a very long time.

Six months later, Sandra can work in her garden, ride a bike and is back to walking miles along the beautiful strand in Redondo Beach.

“Looking back, I tried so many options to find relief with no luck and was ready to accept pain,” says Sandra. “Thanks to Dr. Bhalla I have my life back and recommend him to anyone looking to live a pain-free life.”