Nightly News | September 16, 2012
>>> common medical complaints, back pain. 08% to 90% of all americans will suffer serious enough back pain in their lives that it will keep them off their feet for at least a few days. while most cases are resolved with rest and conservative treatments, others end up in the o.r., and now news of a new surgical procedure that involves no cutting through muscle and much faster recovery times. nbc's tom costello reports.
>> reporter: early morning at beth israel deaconess medical center in boston.
>> can you hold your knee up straight like that?
>> reporter: and 46-year-old jennifer is headed for the o.r. her second operation in two days.
>> is there pain all right?
>> reporter: yesterday surgeons made an incision in her abdomen to operate on her spine. today they're finishing the job going in through her back.
>> just hoping it fixes everything and i can move on with my life.
>> reporter: jennifer is among the many americans that undergo surgery every year. the population ages and new surgical techniques speed up recovery time. amazingly 80% to 90% of americans experience debilitating back pain at some point in their lives. jennifer works as a school bus driver and a housekeeper, but she is suffering from severe nerve pain down her leg keeping her from working and sleeping.
>> i'm nervous, and i'm anxious, but i'm also glad that it will be over with, and that i'll be able to sleep slew the night again hopefully.
>> reporter: her surgeon is dr. kevin mcguire.
>> in her her l-4 vertebrae has slid forward on her l-5 vertebrae, and they're collapsed on to each other.
>> the next step is to get her nerve roots free.
>> reporter: the operation involves relieving pressure on the nerves running down jennifer 's leg. then realigning her vertebrae and stabilizing the spine. this subject really hits home for me. at the beginning of the year my lower back pain was turning into severe nerve pain, radiating down my right leg. the sciatic nerve into my knee, into my ankle. i couldn't sit. i couldn't sleep. by the end of april i was in the o.r.
>> this screw here --
>> reporter: my surgeon is dr. phil snyder, the director of spine surgery at holy cross hospital in maryland.
>> your disk collapsed at a point where it's bone on bone in the back of the disk and caused the opening to the frame to become so narrow it was crushing your nerve.
>> crushing the sciatic nerve ?
>> to fix it he opened my collapsed vertebrae to free up the nerve. then used an infra-red guided system to insert screws and rods.
>> this is a screw that we put into your spine.
>> reporter: it worked. the pain is gone, and while surgery isn't the option for many americans , jennifer also found relief. tom costello, nbc news, boston.