Katie Bennett's Story
The surgery really did give me my life back, and quickly.
For Katie Bennett, a 30-year-old marketer and writing professor in Manhattan, the occasional twinge of back pain was nothing more than an annoyance. She lived an active life without interruption—running half marathons, going to spin class, and traveling in her free time—until one day, it was difficult to move.
The wake-up call arrived in 2021, while Katie was at a Giants football game.
“I realized I could barely walk through the stadium without being in serious pain,” she recalls.
Katie sought help from her primary care physician, who then referred her to a physical medicine specialist. An MRI revealed pressure on her sciatic nerve from a herniated disc in the lower back.
With no recent injuries to explain her pain, Katie could only guess what happened: “Working from home for nearly two years may have affected my spine in a negative way, to the point where the disc was not where it was supposed to be.”
An epidural from a pain management specialist offered little relief. Eventually, she was referred to a neurosurgeon who specializes in spine conditions, Dr. Lynn McGrath of Och Spine at NewYork-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medicine Center and NewYork-Presbyterian Queens. Dr. McGrath, a pioneer in the emerging field of endoscopic spine surgery, knew that a minimally invasive approach would be the right option for a young, active patient like Katie.
“Spine surgery has really changed over the past twenty years or so,” says Dr. McGrath.
“Endoscopic spine surgery is the latest frontier – using these tiny cameras and tools we can repair certain spine problems through an incision less than an inch long, making recovery remarkably fast.”
Tired of steroids and pain medications, Katie wanted a solution; she opted for endoscopic surgery with Dr. McGrath.
“Not every patient is a good candidate for the endoscopic approach,” says Dr. McGrath, “but I knew Katie was, and it is very gratifying to be able to offer this option when it’s appropriate. Katie’s surgery took just about an hour, and she was awake in recovery in no time at all.
Katie was out of bed and walking in Central Park the day after surgery. Recovery was uncomplicated – her prescribed regimen was to walk one hour a day for six weeks, then return to regular physical activities.
Best of all, the pain was gone. “I tell everyone I feel like I got six inches of my height back because I had been hunched over for so long!” she laughs.
Dr. McGrath is pleased with having the endoscopic option for patients. “At most, the incision requires only one or two stitches to close,” he says. “There are some instances when a small adhesive strip is all we need. For getting a problem solved with minimal intrusion and fastest return to normal life, there really is nothing like endoscopic surgery.”
Katie, who is once again a runner and a spin class regular, has some advice for those who are struggling with pain and might benefit from endoscopic surgery: “There is absolutely nothing scary about this,” she says. “I felt as if I literally had the knife pulled out of my back. The surgery really did give me my life back, and quickly.”