The first patient in Maryland to receive a newly approved artificial cervical disc was Meryl L. Eddy, 48, an attorney at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. Eddy was one of only 30 people in the United States to have the Prestige artificial cervical disc implanted since it was approved by the FDA on July 16, 2007. The procedure was performed by Francois Aldrich, M.D. at the University of Maryland Medical Center on August 8, 2007. Eddy says she is delighted that she has almost instantaneously regained strength and mobility in her right arm, which had been severely limited prior to surgery.
Meryl L. Eddy
What was your condition?
I had one bad herniated disc in my neck which compressed the nerve leading down my arm. Dr. Aldrich [a neurosurgeon at the University of Maryland Medical Center and associate professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine] said the rest of my neck and spine was in good shape.
What were your symptoms? What problems did this cause?
In early June I started having some pain in my elbow but I thought I had just pulled a muscle in my arm. Near the end of June I started having numbness in my thumb until a week later I literally could not feel the end of my thumb.
After a week of that, I thought I should visit my doctor. I see a primary care physician here at the University of Maryland Family Medicine Department. In early July, he initially diagnosed possible muscle strain and carpal tunnel syndrome. He recommended treating it with medication and wearing a wrist brace at night for a few weeks while we kept a close eye on any changes in my symptoms. If it did not improve, I might need further testing.
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Literally within a week—on the 13th of July--is when I started to have severe and constant pain throughout my entire right arm. My arm became so progressively weak it became difficult to pick up a glass of water, brush my hair, or click the right mouse on the computer.
I contacted the physicians at Family Medicine about the sudden changes in my condition. Even though my doctor was on vacation, his colleague, Dr. David Stewart [chairman, Family and Community Medicine and associate professor of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine] sent me for an MRI and then, after seeing the result, referred me to Dr. Aldrich within that same week.
What happened when you went to see Dr. Aldrich?
When I first saw Dr. Aldrich, I couldn’t even hold my wrist up.
For the first week he tried to treat it with steroids to see if it would heal on its own. My strength and my arm motion deteriorated.
We discussed the surgical options at that point since the steroids had not worked. He thought I was an excellent candidate for the new artificial cervical disc which seemed to have certain advantages over the traditional fusion. It gave me a great deal of confidence that it was a University of Maryland School of Medicine faculty member who recommended the device and who would be operating on me. The University of Maryland School of Medicine family physicians also gave me confidence as they offered their support. So I agreed to have the new procedure.
When was your surgery?
On August 8, 2007.
How long were you in the hospital?
I was in the hospital for two nights.
How much work did you miss?
Before the surgery I was out of the office for 2 ½ weeks due to the pain and lack of mobility and strength. After the surgeryI was out of the workplace only four days.
Did you have any concerns about being one of the first people to get the disc?
Dr. Aldrich had explained to me that it’s been around in Europe for some time and that it’s been extensively tested here in the U.S. With those explanations and the experience and reputation of our doctors here I was content with trying it.
How do you feel now? Has the surgery made a difference?
I’m very pleased and I’m feeling great. I do not have to wear a neck collar. The operation has made a huge difference. Before the surgery, the pain was horrible - especially at night. Now I’m sleeping well and I have a full range of motion and strength in my arm.
I water and snow ski and I’m a figure skater so I want to get back to doing all of those things. Because I’m athletic, I am looking forward to being active again.
What did you think of the care you received from Dr. Aldrich and the other staff at the University of Maryland?
Dr. Aldrich is terrific; he has the best bedside manner. He explains things very well and takes his time doing so. I like the idea that he was very conservative by trying the treatment route first instead of rushing to surgery. I so appreciated that. His post-surgery follow-up has been helpful as well.
The anesthesiologist, Dr. Schreibman, was great. Dr. David Stewart was the one who got me over here to Dr. Aldrich right away and my primary care doctor encouraged me to move forward with the surgery and kept up with me post-surgery, also.