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Throw Out Your Pack: Help Your Back
Date:11/17/2008

seen a number of failed spinal fusion procedures that could have been avoided if the patient would have stopped smoking," says Dean Karahalios, M.D., spine neurosurgeon at CINN. "Smoking can also compromise a patient's ability to recover from spinal fusion surgery."

Fifty-two-year-old Sheree Maddex of Chicago, IL, one of Dr. Karahalios' spine patients did get the message and quit smoking. She is genetically predisposed to degenerative disc disease. Her father and son both have severe back problems. She had her first cervical spine fusion in 2001. Her first surgery was successful, but due to further degeneration she had her L4 and L5 disc replaced by Dr. Karahalios in 2002. Then in 2004, she was surprised to learn she had lung cancer. After she had had her upper right lobe removed, she vowed to throw the cigarettes away forever. But she says, it may not have been soon enough.

"After 30 years, I finally quit," Sheree admits. "I realized that I wasn't getting any healthier and it was keeping me from healing after surgeries."

Sheree says her lung cancer is gone, but she continues to struggle with disc degeneration. Her debilitating pain prevented her from going to work at Evanston Hospital, where she was a cancer researcher. She couldn't stand or sit for any prolonged period of time. Dr. Karahalios recently fused four discs in her spine, replaced hardware and implanted a titanium cage around a section of her spine to prevent further compression and to help heal the bone fragments. Presently her pain has subsided and she spends a great deal of time in physical therapy.

Sheree adds, "Dr. Karahalios said it would be a slower recuperation than after my initial surgery, but I listen carefully to everything he says. I look forward to the day when I'm completely pain-free."

"Sheree has strength and determination," says Dr. Karahalios. "She was smart to qui
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