Lori's Back Throws Her

A Curveball

Lori Pilatos, dressed in her favorite Angels jersey, recovered from spine surgery just in time for baseball season.

Lori Pilatos, 58, played competitive softball for 25 years and regularly keeps up with the sport on her television at home. A die-hard Angels fan, the Westminster resident also stays connected to America’s favorite pastime by attending games at Angel Stadium whenever possible. 

In her 50s, Lori developed osteoarthritis in her knees – nothing unusual for her age or history of sports. Her primary care physician, Gary Ohashi, M.D., of MemorialCare Medical Group, prescribed Supartz injections in her knee to restore the cushioning and lubricating properties of her joint fluid. This provided some relief, but by June 2017, the pain was unbearable. Oftentimes, pain in the knees or legs – like Lori was experiencing – can be linked to injuries in the spine.
Given her increasing and persistent pain, Dr. Ohashi ordered a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan on her lumbar spine and, based on the results, referred her to the Spine Health Center at Orange Coast Medical Center.

Lori’s team comes together
The Spine Health Center brings together a multidisciplinary team of providers whose specialties range from physical therapy, pain management, neurology and acupuncture to neurologic and orthopedic surgery. What’s more, initial consultations are conducted by a physician who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation. This triage doctor diagnoses and guides patients toward the most appropriate treatment for their condition. 

 

“We take a very conservative approach,” says Jason Koh, D.O., board-certified physiatrist. “I’ve seen nearly 900 patients since the Spine Health Center opened its doors and a majority of the patients have gotten better without the need for surgery.”

Lori began physical therapy, but within two months, the pain in her knees intensified and spread up the front of her thighs. Dr. Koh sent her to Medhat Mikhael, M.D., double board-certified specialist in anesthesiology and pain management, and medical director of the Spine Health Center at Orange Coast Medical Center. In Dr. Mikhael’s office, pain medication was injected directly into the small, stabilizing facet joints of Lori’s lumbar spine. Feeling better, she returned to physical therapy.

One Saturday afternoon, Lori was washing her car. As she bent to scrub the wheels, pain suddenly shot across her lower back and down the front of her legs, from thighs to shins. Two days later, she was unable to stand. Dr. Koh directed her to the Emergency Department at Orange Coast Medical Center and ordered a new MRI on her lower back, followed by epidurals to ease the pain. 

The new MRI report noted profound changes in Lori’s spine, including a severely compressed disc between the second and third vertebrae of her lumbar region (L2-L3). Based on these findings, Dr. Koh concluded she would need surgery. 

According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, an estimated

of all Americans will experience some form of back pain during their lifetime.

75   85%

to

Hitting it out of the park
With the level of pain Lori was experiencing, her care team at Orange Coast Medical Center knew that waiting much longer for surgery was not an option. Dr. Koh and Theresa Stern, M.P.T., director of the MemorialCare Spine Health Center, worked with Devin Binder, M.D., Ph.D., neurosurgeon and spine surgeon at Orange Coast Medical Center, to schedule Lori’s consultation and surgery as soon as possible. 

 

After the surgery was scheduled, Dr. Binder scheduled a consultation appointment with Lori, where he would sit down with her and go through what she could expect during and after surgery.

“Dr. Binder made me feel as if I were his only patient. He explained everything to me. He answered all of my questions,” says Lori. “Thanks to Dr. Binder, my mind was at ease going into surgery.”

To relieve pressure on the nerve, Dr. Binder removed the bulging part of Lori’s disc, along with some bone and an overgrown ligament. 

He inserted a titanium spacer into the gap and clamped it to the outside of her spine for stabilization. Lori went home the same day, and two weeks later, she was walking without assistance or pain medication. 

“An L2-L3 injury is not something we see often, and the symptoms can be misleading,” says Dr. Binder. “Lori was fortunate to have been referred to Dr. Koh. He is an experienced spine specialist who recognized the problem and sent her to a surgeon right away.”

With spring training in full swing, Lori’s healing was just in time for baseball season.

“Throughout my life I’ve worked hard and played harder – playing softball that is. Playing softball and watching baseball is part of who I am. Thanks to my wonderful doctors and nurses at Orange Coast, I can again stand and cheer on my Angels from the stadium without pain throughout my legs,” says Lori with a smile.

To learn more about the MemorialCare Spine Health Center at Orange Coast Medical Center, visit memorialcare.org/OCSpineHealth or call (714) 861-4830. 

 

Medicine

Sports

Meet our physicians

Sports medicine specialists do more than treat athletes; they are also an excellent resource for individuals who wish to become active or start a new exercise program. Sports medicine specialists work diligently with you to maximize your full potential. MemorialCare Medical Group offers dedicated primary care sports medicine specialists who focus their practice on healthcare for athletes and patients who are, or wish to be, physically active.

Our sports medicine services include treatments for the following:

Shoulder

Hip

Knee

Foot/ankle

Elbow/hand

Back

Arturo Aguilar, M.D.

Dr. Aguilar is double board certified in family medicine and sports medicine. He enjoys building relationships with his patients and empowering them to live a healthy life.

17762 Beach Blvd., Suite 220

Huntington Beach, CA 92647

(714) 848-0080

Joshua Snodgrass, M.D.

As both a primary care and sports medicine provider, Dr. Snodgrass is there for his patients from everyday check-ups to sports-related injuries.

2888 Long Beach Blvd., Suite 325

Long Beach, CA 90806

(562) 933-0013

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MemorialCare is a nonprofit integrated healthcare delivery system that includes leading hospitals – Long Beach Medical Center, Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach, Orange Coast Medical Center and Saddleback Medical Center; award-winning medical groups – MemorialCare Medical Group and Greater Newport Physicians; MemorialCare Select Health Plan; and convenient outpatient health centers, imaging centers, surgical centers and dialysis centers throughout Orange and Los Angeles Counties.

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