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Karen Stagner-Louie – Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (PLIF) Success Story

Karen Stagner-Louie finds relief from back pain at Methodist Richardson

Karen Stagner-Louie with her husband Ray Louie Doubly grateful: Karen Stagner-Louie is glad
to be pain-free after a successful, minimally
invasive spine procedure performed by Brent
Morgan, MD, at Methodist Richardson. She’s
also thankful for the support of her husband,
Ray Louie, through the months of treatment and
recovery. “He’s been amazing,” she says.

All last November, Karen Stagner-Louie was fine. But on Dec. 1, 2011, only days before she and her husband, Ray Louie, were to move from Houston to Richardson, she awoke with excruciating back pain.

“By the end of the day, I could barely walk,” she says.

After they moved into their new apartment, the always-active Stagner-Louie was helpless to unpack the boxes stacked around their home. In fact, the only way she could get around was to be pushed in a rolling desk chair.

The journey begins

Karen Stagner-Louie

Stagner-Louie’s primary care physician referred her to neurosurgeon Brent Morgan, MD, independently practicing physician on the medical staff at Methodist Richardson Medical Center.

An MRI showed that she had a condition called spondylolisthesis, or slippage of the bones. The vertebrae in her lower spine were not aligning properly. Dr. Morgan first took a conservative approach to treating the condition.

“I always try noninvasive treatments first, because people can often find a lot of relief that way,” Dr. Morgan says. “Physical therapy and anti-inflammatories are the first route. The next course of treatment is epidural steroid injections. If that doesn’t work, then and only then do we start talking about surgery.”

For Stagner-Louie, it was time to have that talk. Physical therapy and steroid injections had proven ineffective, and the pain now radiated down her leg. On Monday, April 23, she was in surgery.

Karen Stagner-Louie with her husband Ray LouieThe healing begins

Stagner-Louie had a modified version of a procedure called a PLIF (posterior lumbar interbody fusion) and experienced relief within hours.

“Considering the pain I was having that Monday morning getting out of the wheelchair, it was a miracle that I woke up on Tuesday without any pain,” Stagner-Louie says. “My husband was absolutely amazed that I was standing the same day as my surgery.”

Dr. Morgan credits the procedure’s success to its minimally invasive nature. By making only one 2½-inch incision, Dr. Morgan offers patients a faster recovery than with a standard PLIF.

“Karen has progressed wonderfully,” he says. “At her one-month visit, she was already significantly better than she was before the surgery. Her leg pain was completely gone, and she had no back pain. She’s just gotten better from there.”

A new life begins

Stagner-Louie quickly worked her way back to an active lifestyle.

“I started a walking program almost immediately,” she says. “When we first started, I had my walker, and it would take me 20 minutes to loop our apartment complex. Now we’re walking one to two miles a day. I can do just about anything.”

With the holidays around the corner, she’s ready to start decorating and do some holiday cooking, which last year’s pain just wouldn’t allow. This year, however, she’ll get some extra help — from her husband.

“I love to cook, but because of my back, Ray had to be the stand-in chef,” she says. “It turns out that he has a hidden talent for cooking. He’s wonderful in the kitchen!”

From the winter 2012 edition of Shine magazine.