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Comprehensive Care for Complex Conditions

February 27, 2019
Selfie of Christin outside with a camo hat.

Christin suffers with an autoimmune disorder, avascular necrosis (AVN), and degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine.

Autoimmune disease treatment often requires daily oral prednisone, a steroid that reduces immune system function. For unknown reasons, high dose prednisone predisposes some patients, including Christin, to joint damage, avascular necrosis (AVN). AVN of the hip is a painful condition that occurs when the blood supply to the head of the femur (thighbone) is disrupted. After 8 ½ months on oral steroids for her autoimmune condition before meeting Dr. Frank, Christin was diagnosed with AVN. Her symptoms included pain with weight–bearing and loss of joint function. Her life changed dramatically from an active lifestyle as a runner to an abrupt end to any high-impact activities.

Nonsurgical treatment options, such as activity changes, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, cold therapy, and massage, failed to relieve her pain and slow the progression of the disease.

Her complex combination of conditions includes degenerative disc disease. Christin suspects that her daily activities, sports and heredity, resulted in tears in the outer core of her lumbar discs. It is not considered hereditary, but genetic factors may predispose people to develop the condition. It is primarily caused by wear and tear to the lumbar vertebrae. Her symptoms included constant low back pain, tenderness, reduced mobility, and weakness.

In 2016, Christin found her pain management specialist, Dr. Brannon Frank, who now practices with the group of DOC orthopedic surgeons, specialty-trained PAs, and sports medicine experts. She explains: “I love Dr. Frank. He is kind and compassionate. I don’t take narcotics. I don’t want to be medicated. I work full-time. He explains my treatment options and I never feel pressured. I followed him from his pain management practice to DOC.” She looks forward to seeing other DOC providers for her multiple conditions. She appreciates the value of holistic care, a whole team of medical professionals working together to diagnose and treat complex cases like her own.

Recently Christine enjoyed pain relief in her right hip from an injection for AVN and relief in her lower back for degenerative disc disease from radio frequency ablation (RFA). An electrical current produced by a radio wave heated a small area of her nerve tissue, decreasing pain signals from that specific area. Christin can do most of her everyday activities now, such as vacuum her house and give her dog a bath.

Most treatment options for AVN are surgical and may include a hip joint replacement for Christin in the future. RFA currently provides relief for Christin’s lower back pain, which may last for months or even years. If and when further treatment is necessary, the DOC medical team will work together and discuss the best options with each other and Christin.

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