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Scoliosis surgery saves Indiana woman’s quality of life

Tina Pannone likes nothing better than being a grandma to her 13 grandchildren. But five years ago, the pain in her back began to be too much. She needed help.

“My pain level could peak up to a nine,” said Pannone. “I had constant pain in the center of my back where my largest curve is.”

Tina has scoliosis. She was diagnosed at the age of 18 and for most of her life, she had few if any problems. But at the age of 50, she began to experience a lot of pain. She began to search for a doctor who could help Dr. John Depowell, a neurosurgeon with IU Health and Goodman Campbell Brain and Spine, had an answer. He’s seen a number of scoliosis patients. He explained to Tina, for her pain to diminish, she would have to undergo a seven hour operation, where he would restructure and bolster her curved spine with metal rods and screws.

“What we had to do was a very large operation where we had to remove some bone in her spine to loosen things up,” said Dr. Depowell. “And then put screws in the bone extending from the upper part of her thorasic spine all the way down to her pelvis.”

Six to nine million Americans have scoliosis. It’s more common in females than males. The symptoms are fairly obvious: uneven shoulders, uneven waist, and one hip might be higher than the other. In Tina’s case, the curve began to crush her lungs and heart.

“I feel better knowing that my lungs are in a better position. My heart is in a better position. As far as day to day, it’s better than it was,” said Pannone.

The surgery has reduced her need for strong pain medication. Although some days she does need help with that. She’s back playing with her grandchildren and living life, grateful to Dr. Depowell for his expertise.

“It has made a world of difference,” she said.

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