Published on June 16, 2021

Spinal Surgeon and General Surgeon Collaborate at Silver Cross to Treat Patient’s Chronic Back Pain

Dr. Gamagami
Reza Gamagami, M.D.

Dr. Sampat
Chintan Sampat, M.D.

When surgeons collaborate at Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox, patients are the winners!

That’s what happened recently when board-certified spinal surgeon Chintan Sampat, MD, FAAOS, teamed up with renowned robotic surgery expert and board-certified general surgeon Dr. Reza Gamagami, to perform a complex anterior lumbar fusion – the very same surgery golfer Tiger Woods had in 2017 – on a 56-year-old Frankfort woman.

Shelley (who preferred not to use her last name) said she was a bit sore the day after driving with her husband and mother from her Frankfort home to Florida recently. But she’s not complaining. Even walking the dog would have meant excruciating pain before her recent spinal surgery at Silver Cross.

 That’s right, just a month after spine surgery to correct a congenital problem with a disc that caused her pain throughout most of her adult life, she was taking a 1,000-mile car trip that would have been completely out of the question. 

“Ten years ago, I was in a car accident, and that messed up my back even worse,” she explained. “I finally had to quit my job as a hairdresser after 38 years. All that standing and then bending over the sink to wash hair, it was just too painful.” 

The pain also meant no more walks with her husband, “and if I couldn’t get something done by 2 p.m. each day, forget it. The pain was too intense.” 

After physical therapy, shots and prescription painkillers all failed, Shelley said her husband’s back problems actually got her thinking about seeing Dr. Sampat

“I just looked on the internet for a doctor for my husband to see, and Dr. Sampat had great reviews. So, I thought, ‘I wonder if he can help me?’” 

After consulting with Dr. Sampat, Shelley was pleasantly surprised. In fact, she was shocked. 

“He said, ‘I can fix that. You’ll be as good as new.’ I almost cried. I had been to so many doctors.”

Anterior lumbar fusion has been around for many years, Dr. Sampat said, and is a great option for some patients. Tiger Woods had the surgery in 2017, which allowed him to compete, and win, the prestigious Masters Tournament two years later, his fifth. 

During the more traditional type of spinal surgery, the surgeon operates only from the patient’s back. But during anterior lumbar fusion, Dr. Sampat said, “the patient is first positioned in the prone position (on their stomach), and we place screws into the back to partially reduce the spondylolisthesis slip back into a more normal position at L5-S1. We then manually flip the patient onto a separate table into a supine position (on their back). 

“That's where Dr. Gamagami and I make a left-sided abdominal approach and carefully move the peritoneal sack to the patient's right side and carefully remove the L5-S1 disc and realign the spine to a more normal position. We then place a cage with screws and plate and rods to hold everything together.” 

Dr. Sampat said he is fortunate to have performed many anterior lumbar fusions with a practitioner having the reputation of Dr.  Gamagami, who specializes in general surgery, and colon and rectal surgery at Silver Cross. 

“I performed my first anterior lumbar fusion in 2009,” said Dr. Sampat. “Dr. Gamagami has been performing them for more than 20 years.” 

“Providing access for spine surgeons requires years of experience and good knowledge of variations in the anatomy to reduce and minimize potential complications,” Dr. Gamagami adds.

The main benefit of anterior lumbar fusion is how quickly the patient can recover. Because surgeons approach the spine from the abdomen, muscles and nerves in the lower back are spared. 

Shelley said her pain, other than from the surgical sites, was gone that day. She was released from the hospital the day after surgery, “and I was walking around Walmart a few days later. My sister has the same congenital condition, and she had the regular surgery. She was out of commission for six weeks. I had three days of pain medication, and that’s it now.” 

Shelley still needs to be careful; no bending or heavy lifting. “But I feel so good now, sometimes I forget. I honestly don’t feel like I even need physical therapy.” 

She “practiced” for her long drive to Florida (with frequent rest stops) by taking a 5 ½-hour car ride to Minnesota to see her new great-nephew. 

“It’s been unbelievable. I have so much more energy. You don’t realize how much it zaps you to be in constant pain. Dr. Sampat saved my life. I had no idea I could ever feel this good again.” 

Woods may have won the Masters after his surgery, but Shelley is on top of the world.

“I can‘t wait to see what the future holds for me now.”

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Physicians on Silver Cross Hospital’s Medical Staff have expertise in their areas of practice to meet the needs of patients seeking their care. These physicians are independent practitioners on the Medical Staff and are not the agents or employees of Silver Cross Hospital. They treat patients based upon their independent medical judgment and they bill patients separately for their services.