Patient Stories

B. Thomas Mazahery, MD

Brett thought a motorcycle crash and subsequent wrist injury were responsible for the worsening pain and weakness in his right hand. His arm would go numb 30 times a day, he couldn’t shake hands, and even picking up a piece of paper was painful. Seeking relief, he was referred to Thomas Mazahery, MD, at Commonwealth Orthopaedics. Dr. Mazahery immediately sent him for an MRI. The results showed a two-level disc herniation causing severe compression of Brett’s nerves and spinal cord. He would need urgent surgery to take the pressure off, in order to prevent further neurologic deterioration.

Stunned by the diagnosis, Brett was unsure what to do. He reached out to patients who’d had cervical disc procedures with Dr. Mazahery and other surgeons. All of them recommended a new technique: cervical disc replacement. “They told me it was the best thing they’d done and they were able to return to their previous activities quickly,” he says. “Based on my activity level, I decided to go with it, too.”

Cervical disc replacement is an exciting advancement in spine surgery that may be a good option for carefully selected patients with disc herniation or bone spurs from arthritis. In this procedure, the surgeon removes the diseased disc to take pressure off the nerves and spinal cord. Instead of fusing the vertebrae together, the surgeon replaces the diseased disc with a prosthetic disc. The device stabilizes the spine and preserves motion and function in the neck

Brett’s two-level disc replacement was an overwhelming success. When he woke up, the pain and weakness were gone. “I grabbed a cup of ice, expecting it to hurt. Instead, my hand crushed the cup. It was an amazing change and a huge relief,” he says. The next day, he was walking around his neighborhood. Within a week, he was back at his job as director of quality engineering. At six weeks, he could bench press 315 pounds.  

The 46-year-oldhas resumed all of his previous activities, including some favorite pastimes he was unable to do before: competitive motorcycle racing and archery. Best of all, he can keep up with his teenage son and daughter. 

His experience was so positive, he is now a volunteer ambassador for The Better Way Back®, a national program to educate and support patients contemplating a spine procedure. He shares his successful story with others like him who want to learn more about their spine surgery treatment options.