Spinal Stenosis: Donna Togliatti's Story | News | Loyola Medicine
Thursday, January 29, 2015

Patient completely pain-free following spinal stenosis surgery

MAYWOOD, Ill. (January 29, 2015) - Every morning, the pain shooting down Donna Togliatti’s right leg was so intense that it was a struggle just to walk to the kitchen and make a cup of coffee.

Mrs. Togliatti had spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the space inside her spine that caused pressure on her nerves.

"The pain was there all the time, but was more intense in the morning," she said.

Mrs. Togliatti had lived with the pain for years. When it became so bad she needed a cane in the morning, she made an appointment with Loyola University Medical Center spine surgeon Bartosz Wojewnik, MD.

Taking a conservative approach, Dr. Wojewnik prescribed physical therapy, pain medications and epidural steroid injections. After those treatments failed to provide more than temporary pain relief, Dr. Wojewnik performed a two-part surgery consisting of a spinal decompression and fusion.

"When I woke up from the surgery, my leg pain was completely gone," Mrs. Togliatti said. "It was like a miracle."

Mrs. Togliatti’s condition was due to arthritis, the most common cause of spinal stenosis. Cartilage covering vertebral joints wore away, and new bone grew around the joints. This bone overgrowth, called spurs, narrowed the space surrounding the nerves. Enlarged ligaments due to chronic inflammation also lessened the space for nerves.

To decompress the nerves, Dr. Wojewnik removed boney spurs. This provided immediate pain relief. The arthritis also caused instability in the spine. Vertebrae were moving more than they naturally would, contributing to compression. To ensure the pain relief would be long-lasting, Dr. Wojewnik stabilized the spine by fusing together two vertebrae with rods and screws.

Spine surgery can be successful when done for the right reasons, Dr. Wojewnik said. “If, after trying everything else, you do the right procedure on the right patient at the right time, you can provide great results and make patients very happy.”

Mrs. Togliatti is among those happy patients. "Dr. Wojewnik gave me back my quality of life," she said.

Dr. Wojewnik is an assistant professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

Watch a video about the Loyola Medicine Spine Program.

About Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, MacNeal Hospital and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from 1,877 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. Having delivered compassionate care for over 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its teaching affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments. MacNeal has a 12-bed acute rehabilitation unit, a 25-bed inpatient skilled nursing facility, and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. MacNeal has provided quality, patient-centered care to the near west suburbs since 1919.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic healthcare systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 92 hospitals, as well as 109 continuing care locations that include PACE programs, senior living facilities and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $18.3 billion and assets of $26.2 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity employs about 129,000 colleagues, including 7,800 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services—ranked by number of visits—in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs.