Sanford doctor and patient make history after robotic spinal surgery

Published: Aug. 12, 2019 at 11:20 AM CDT
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"Some days it got so bad, I would have a hard time walking out to my parking spot."

75-year-old Darrel Raftevold started experiencing back pain while working part time at the airport. He says he would try his best to stretch it out and get through the day, but in just a few shorts months, the pain became unbearable.

"December was worse. I had a real hard time. So, then I decided that I couldn't do this anymore. So, I decided not to work anymore," says Darrel.

This isn't the first time Darrel has felt this pain. 9 years ago, he was told that he had degenerative disc disease. This is when the spine loses its flexibility, causing nerves to pinch.

After this recent MRI, Darrel was told he would have to go into surgery but this time, it would be different, "that's when I was introduced to the robotic aspect of the surgery."

Making Darrel the first patient in North Dakota to get robotic assisted spinal surgery.

Dr. Abdul Baker is a neurosurgeon here in Fargo at Sanford and was the doctor who performed Darrel's surgery. When describing how spinal surgery is traditionally done, it seems more stressful for the patient.

"The traditional approach was, open up the back, make a big cut and peel off all the muscles. It's very painful," says Dr. Baker.

But, now with robotic spinal surgery, Dr. Baker is able to make smaller incisions. He says, "with a small cut, patients have less blood loss. They have less muscle damage and dissection, which translates into less pain."

Resulting in a quicker recovery for patients. After Darrel's operation on July 24th, he was home and walking around a week later.

"The pain isn't there that I had before on the first operation at all," says Darrel.

Making the operation a success.

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