NorthShore’s online source for timely health and wellness news, inspiring patient stories and tips to lead a healthy life.
Tara Creedan takes pride in being an exceptionally patient person, a trait she uses every day in her job as a customer service advocate for a national e-learning company and training organization in the northwest suburbs. But Creedan’s patience had worn thin when it came to managing her own chronic and escalating back pain.
“It got to the point that the only way I was comfortable was laying down,” recalled Creeden, 44, of Fox River Grove.
Welcome Referral Thankfully, Creedan’s work manager encouraged her to see NorthShore Neurological Institute’s Noam Stadlan, MD, a neurosurgeon specializing in spinal surgery. After talking with and examining Creeden, Dr. Stadlan suspected compression of her spinal cord. This was confirmed by CT and MRI scans that revealed abnormalities and instability at the top of her spine.
A little person, Creeden suffers from Morquio syndrome, a rare, genetic metabolic condition that can lead to a number of issues including bone abnormalities. Diagnosed at three years old, she had spinal fusion surgery as a child.
“The earlier surgery kept her spine adequately stable, but the imaging showed the bones had not fused,” explained Dr. Stadlan, who holds an academic appointment at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. He advised Creeden she needed surgery as soon as possible to take the pressure off her spinal cord to prevent further, permanent damage.
Meeting the Challenge While Dr. Stadlan has performed thousands of advanced and minimally invasive spinal fusion procedures, Creeden’s surgery was particularly difficult since many of her bones had formed abnormally. This posed challenges in finding appropriate places to anchor the screws for the fusion.
Advanced 3-D imaging and other technology advances at NorthShore Spine Center allowed Dr. Stadlan to precisely visualize and navigate during surgery. “We went into this with two goals: to get the pressure off her spinal cord and to stabilize the bones of her spine,” he explained.
The procedure combined the new technology of image-guided spine surgery with older techniques—including wiring some of her vertebrae together as some of Creedan’s bones are not big enough to hold the screws.
Admittedly nervous before her surgery, Creeden said she felt comfortable in her first meeting with Dr. Stadlan, and after the procedure she was thrilled with the results. “I’m now absolutely pain-free and have no lingering side effects.”
“We do whatever it takes to get the best outcome for the patient,” added Dr. Stadlan. “Tara has no limits on her activity, and there’s a good likelihood she won’t need any further procedures.”