New minimally invasive spinal surgery gives teenage girl hope

Estella Chase started to feel pain in her lower back during a gymnastics competition last year in the middle of the season. She said she pushed through, but the pain worsened.

A doctor later diagnosed the 14-year-old girl from Orlando with a lower spine fracture.

“I was put in a brace for 12 weeks at the start, but after the first 12 weeks, it wasn’t getting any better,” Estella said.

Dr. Allan Levi, Jackson Memorial Hospital’s chief of neurosurgery, stepped in and recommended a new, minimally invasive spinal surgery. Levi said the procedure was meant to fuse her lower spine.

“The treatment always to start with is conservative. That includes things like bracing, medications, injections. Unfortunately, the early treatment includes not doing the sports you love to do, and that is sort of what she was faced with in determining what the next steps were.”

The spinal fusion joins two or more bones permanently with bone or artificial material.

Some of the potential benefits of minimally invasive surgery include better cosmetic results from smaller skin incisions, less blood loss, reduced risk of muscle damage, reduced risk of infection, and diminished reliance on pain medications, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.

Estelle underwent the procedure in October and she was in a back brace for 12 weeks. Her spine healed. She also underwent many hours of physical therapy at the Holtz Children’s Hospital. She had to learn to walk again. Estelle is back in the gym. She is back to doing what she loves.

“Pre-surgery, I like couldn’t sit or stand or even lay down without pain, so once I had the surgery, I was able to do all those things, and it was like a whole new me — kind of,” Estelle said.

Her goal is to be able to compete again at the collegiate level.

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