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On the Move
Pastor Regains Quality of Life Thanks to Spine Surgery

Matthew Gibert tying shoe

In 2006, Matthew Gibert was diagnosed with a nerve impingement in his neck. Five years later, when high doses of anti-inflammatory drugs no longer alleviated the shooting pain in his upper arm and the numbness in his fingers, Gibert, 39, a McLean resident and pastor at a church in Arlington, needed another approach. He consulted with Corey Wallach, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with the Anderson Orthopaedic Clinic. “Dr. Wallach was willing to try conservative measures, but I asked about surgical options,” Gibert says. “The pain kept me from sleeping and prevented me from using my computer mouse; I couldn’t go on living this way.”

In August 2011, Dr. Wallach performed an anterior cervical dissection and fusion on Gibert at Inova Alexandria Hospital. “Considering the seriousness of the surgery, I was amazed to be up walking the following day,” he says. “I had several options for pain control that kept me comfortable throughout my recovery.”

Corey Wallach, MD
Corey Wallach, MD
Please join Corey Wallach, MD, for a free lecture, “Options for Treating Neck Pain,” on Sept. 5 at 6 p.m. at Inova Alexandria Hospital. The class is FREE, but to better serve you, we ask that you register by calling 1-855-694-6682 or go here.

Dramatic Improvement

Gibert wore a cervical collar for three weeks and, within two months, resumed most of his normal activities. “Cervical spine surgery is the most successful type of spine surgery,” says Dr. Wallach, who loves seeing how rapidly his patients can resume their everyday activity. “The pre-operative pain can be so intense that to see such a dramatic improvement in a relatively short period is very rewarding.”

Gibert can’t say enough good things about his experience. “I was thrilled with everyone at Inova Alexandria Hospital from the check-in receptionist through the post-op nurses,” he says. “The chain of care is extensive, but clearly Dr. Wallach’s skill is central to the process.”

Now back to running and swimming along with his full-time pastoral duties at Arlington’s Cherrydale Baptist Church, Gibert is extremely grateful. “To Dr. Wallach, the procedure may be routine,” he says. “But for me, it changed my life.”

Running Again

Pain from a nerve impingement in his neck prevented Matthew Gibert from doing the activities he loves, like running. An anterior cervical dissection and fusion changed that. Within two months, he was nearly back to his normal routine. Now, he's feeling like his old self.”


What is Cervical Spine Surgery?

Cervical spine surgery helps to relieve the pain, numbness, tingling and weakness that may be caused by nerve compression. It also works to restore nerve function and prevent abnormal motion of the spine. Degenerative changes, disc herniations or spinal instability can cause pressure on the spinal cord or roots. This surgery is designed to remove such pressure.

There are often two components to the surgery — a “decompression” where the surgeon relieves the pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots by removing the offending disc, ligaments or bone; and a “fusion” of affected vertebrae to provide stability. Sometimes plates and screws are used to provide immediate stability to the spine during the healing process.

Once the vertebrae have been stabilized, abnormal motion is stopped and they no longer irritate the affected nerves. Typically, patients do not notice any loss of range of motion following the procedure and are able to quickly return to their prior activities.



Prepping for Surgery

In the days before your spine surgery, it’s important to tell your surgeon about any medications you take at home including herbal supplements and over-the-counter medications. You may have to stop taking aspirin or other medications that thin your blood and may increase bleeding. Some other tips and notes:

  • Tell your doctor if you or someone in your family has any history of reaction to general anesthesia.
  • If you smoke, you may be asked to stop smoking well before surgery and avoid smoking for a period of time after surgery.
  • Before surgery you will probably be given instructions on when to stop eating and drinking. It’s common to have nothing to eat or drink after midnight on the night before the procedure.
  • Ask your surgeon if you should take your regular medications with a small sip of water on the day of the procedure.

Get Back to It
Learn more about Inova Spine Institute here

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