If you believe in excellent medical care with personal attention provided
by an experienced and world renowned surgeon and his caring staff, you
have found the right clinic! Our goal is to give personalized, top quality
medical care to each and every patient. Unlike other clinics, we do not
overbook our schedule for office visits or surgeries. PATIENTS ARE NOT
JUST A NUMBER TO US. WE STRONGLY BELIEVE THAT EACH AND EVERY PATIENT DESERVES
PROPER TIME AND CARE... [more]
The patients in the Testimonials list below have
had the same procedure displayed in the video above.
July 1, 2001
To Whom It May Concern:
Just 10 days ago, Dr. Schiffer told me I didn’t need to
wear my post-surgical back support any more. Already, most of the
stiffness is gone. I am pain free and normal sensation has returned
to my legs and feet. I just can’t believe how good I feel.
I keep expecting the pain to return, but it doesn’t. Instead,
I feel myself getting stronger and more agile everyday. Exercise
is once again enjoyable and I am rediscovering many small pleasures
I had forgotten. My whole outlook on life has improved. Once again,
I am learning how to dream about the future and make plans with
some confidence. I am writing this letter in the hope that sharing
my experience will help others who are still looking for a solution.
I first injured my back in 1983. The injury was diagnosed as an “acute
sprain”. I tried various prescribed exercise routines, lots
of ibuprofin and even alternative therapies like yoga and chiropractic,
but still suffered periodic disability and chronic back pain for
the next 10 years. In 1993, I was told I had a herniated L-5/S-1
disk. Despite my specific requests to more than one physician,
a surgical referral was not offered. Instead I was given statistics
showing that physical therapy was as effective as surgery and shown
articles describing class action suits by Boston area back surgery
patients. When an intensive program of physical therapy, along
with Flexiril, resulted in only marginal improvement, I was led
to believe that I had no potential for a cure. Eventually, I lost
both my health insurance and my career in archaeology. Social Security
Disability turned me down because I was able to earn some money
doing flexible part-time jobs.
After 5 years, I experienced significant improvement and was able
to take a full time job as a technical writer. At that time, a
chiropractic x-ray showed that there was almost no L-5/S-1 disk
space left and I thought my condition had stabilized. Unfortunately,
in the summer of 2000, my symptoms suddenly worsened for no apparent
reason. The nurse practitioner in my GP’s office suggested
that I get an MRI and consult a surgeon. About that time, NPR did
an interview with a neurosurgeon who explained his view that every
patient has an individual level of tolerance and that, unless the
function of internal organs was impaired, only pain or disability
that the patient could not learn to tolerate called for back surgery.
Shortly thereafter, I met a very active woman who’d herniated
her L-5/S-1 disk and had a microdiscectomy the year before. She
told me that she was pain-free except for some stiffness, but said
she'd had to “force them to operate.” Emotionally,
there was no way
I saw Dr. Schiffer’s web-site a full eight months before
I contacted him. I was sure that because I live near Boston, with
its famous universities and hospitals, I would have access to the
best medical care. Now, with all the clarity of “20/20 hindsight”,
I see that it was a huge mistake not to call Dr. Schiffer immediately.
Instead, I embroiled myself is an extraordinarily frustrating search
to find help locally. In the end, it was very difficult to free
myself from all the well intentioned misinformation I’d been
exposed to and believe that minimally invasive surgery could solve
For some reason, the medical community in the Boston area seems
to have a very negative attitude towards back surgery. When surgery
for my case was finally discussed, more extensive procedures were
encouraged “to make sure all the problems are addressed”, “so
the surgeon can see”, or because “if you are going
to go through surgery, you might as well go all the way”.
Two different surgeons told me that a percutaneous discectomy would
be of absolutely no value in my case because I had stenosis. One
surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital told me that only
a fusion could cure my mid-back pain. It was suggested that a microdiscectomy
might alleviate leg pain and return strength and feeling to my
left leg. I thought that might be enough to let me have at least
some kind of life, but I couldn’t find anyone who would do
it unless I “exhausted all avenues of conservative care first”.
(Note: If you need to gain weight, try steroids, lots of bed rest
and severely reduced activity.
To say I was disappointed with the way the medical community in
our area handles back problems would be an understatement. My symptoms
seemed to be downplayed and I felt I was being manipulated to give
up and accept a life of pain and disability. Every time I thought
I had jumped through the hoops required before surgery, new barriers
were added. I was really almost of the brink of despair when I
finally contacted Dr. Schiffer.
As far as I can tell, all my problems have been solved by the
percutaneous discectomy followed by IDET that Dr. Schiffer performed
on April 4th (Even the mid-back pain: Apparently, I don’t
have enough stenosis to cause a problem.) Dr. Schiffer also removed
a piece of loose cartilage about 1 cm square which hadn’t
shown on my MRI. It’s pretty scary to think about something
like that near your spinal cord.
Even though my insurance didn’t pay all the costs of my
surgery, I’m glad I went to California to have it done. If
I hadn’t, I probably would have ended up having either a
microdiscectomy or a fusion. I suspect I wouldn’t have been
given a choice which and that by the time the option was presented,
I would have been so desperate that I would have tried anything.
I also suspect I would have been left with some pain and disability.
I know the surgery itself would have been riskier than necessary
and caused unneeded damage.
When I was in pain, I would have done anything for just some level
of relief. Now that I feel good, I am really glad that: 1.) No
bone was cut or removed, 2.) No muscles were detached from their
anchors, 3.) My spinal cord was never exposed to air, and 4.) I
have hardly any scar. (It turns out Dr. Schiffer is a fairly brilliant
plastic surgeon too. My scar is has shrunk to about 3/8” in
length. It is completely flat and no wider than a cat scratch.
Usually, when I see surgical scars, I feel a bit shivery and ill
at ease, but this doesn’t effect me that way at all. In fact,
my physical therapist had to ask me to show her where it was.)
Any other kind of surgery would have been an ordeal. I expected
this would be too. I was so scared the night before I flew out
to California that I didn’t even know what I was packing.
As it turned out, I’ve had worse times in a dentist’s
office. Though lightly sedated, I was alert, aware and conversational
throughout the procedure. It was actually pretty interesting. As
soon as they let me stand up an hour later, I knew something good
had happened. I felt very stable on my feet and the deep pain I’d
had for so many years was gone. Of course, there was some localized
pain from surgery, but it was very mild compared to what I had
been living with and went away with medication. Before surgery,
I’d had difficulty standing for even a short time. Three
days afterwards, I toured San Francisco’s Museum of Modern
Art with some friends. We fully explored every floor and I insisted
on taking the stairs instead of the elevator just because it was
a joy to do so.
Chronic pain and disability erodes every aspect of your life.
Despite the worthwhile changes brought about by ADA and reasonable
accommodations in the work place, to let an adult live in needless
pain seems to me as wasteful as sending a nearsighted child to
school without glasses. In my opinion, attitudes towards back surgery
should be reconsidered … especially, in light of newer minimally
invasive techniques which are safe and effective when performed
by an experienced surgeon.