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BMC Introduces New Spinal Procedure

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Christa Dean Hild
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Panama City, Forida – The scar on Tammy Hussar’s neck was displayed with pride Monday morning as the Florida Highway Patrol officer talked about her mark as a badge of honor and salvation.

Hussar, 47, was severely injured on duty in February when a driver fell asleep at the wheel and collided with Hussar’s patrol car. The accident caused a disk in Hussar’s spine to impinge on her spinal cord, causing severe pain and even numbness in her extremities.

“I truly believed that the rest of my life was going to be sitting on the couch taking pain medication,” Hussar said.

After consulting with three physicians, Hussar was told she would need spinal surgery and that if she had the traditional spinal fusion performed, she would never be able to return to active duty. The thought of being forced to abandon a life of service made Hussar cry — until she learned about a new procedure from neurosurgeon Dr. Cyril DeSilva.

“I’m 110 percent better,” Hussar said Monday. “I have a life again; I’m a very active person, so this was almost the death of me.”

Hussar was one of the first local patients to have an artificial cervical disc inserted into her spinal column. The procedure took place in July, and Hussar was back on duty after a two-week recovery period.

“I’m able to wear my gun belt, which weighs 20 pounds, and I’m absolutely tickled that I’m back at work,” Hussar said. “I was off of pain meds three days after the procedure. I didn’t know I was going to have a medical breakthrough.”

The new procedure used the PRESTGE cervical disc, the first artificial replacement approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The device is made of two piece of articulating stainless steel. The piece uses a patented ball-and-trough design to allow for a full range of motion. The procedure is limited to treating neck injuries.

Bay Medical Center is offering the spinal procedure for younger and more active patients that suffer from neck pain and injuries. The traditional treatment is a spinal fusion, which relieves pain, but the procedure locks two vertebrae together, restricting neck motion.

“Arguably, back and neck pain is one of the most common ailments,” Bay Medical Center president and CEO Steve Johnson said about the first artificial cervical disc approved to repair cervical spine damage. “We are the only one in our area that performs such a procedure.”

If Hussar had a spinal fusion, she would not be able to return to field work. Hussar has been a Highway Patrol officer for nearly 27 years and she has family members that served with the agency for the past 90 years.

DeSilva performed the surgery on Hussar, which included taking out the old disk, cleaning out the old material, inserting the new disk and securing the spine with screws.

“There are two benefits with the artificial disc: It reduces stress on adjacent discs and the traditional bone fusion can take up to three months to recover from,” DeSilva said. “With the artificial disc, patients can recover much quicker.”