Todd Lanman, MD, is founder of Lanman Spinal Neurosurgery in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Dr. Lanman has undergone four cervical and four lumbar spine surgeries. His most recent surgery was a cervical spine procedure in January 2019.
Here, Dr. Lanman outlines the spine procedures he has undergone and how that informs his relationship with patients.
Question: As a neurosurgeon who has undergone eight spine surgeries, what advantage does that give you when interacting with patients?
Dr. Todd Lanman: The patients are grateful in one sense because they feel I understand their concerns, both preoperatively and in recovery. It has been valuable because they know I can relate to them and seem very comforted by that.
Q: What was it like being on the other side of those spine procedures?
TL: When you're going into surgery there's always this fear of turning yourself over to someone else. As a spine surgeon, I know the odds so I can be a bit more rational on statistically what's likely to happen and how I'm going to do, whereas some patients may not have the benefit of statistical knowledge and understand about what they may encounter if something happens. On the one hand, I'm more confident on what may happen during each procedure because I've seen it from beginning to end. On the other side, as a surgeon, it can be a little scary turning yourself over to someone else. But I was able to put the logic and odds together, knowing the surgical procedures, the anatomy and my particular issue, and knew that I was getting the right surgery for the right problem.
Q: What procedures did you have done? How did you decide what surgeons were going to operate on you?
TL: Each surgeon I had was different for each procedure. The first surgery I had was a micro endoscopic discectomy from a large herniation, and this was when I was waiting for the FDA to approve the artificial disc because I had run the trials. I needed one and I didn't want a fusion. But I had a microforaminotomy and removal of the herniated disc by a neurosurgeon I knew on the east coast who did a series of procedures using this technique. I had him perform it, and he did great, but I did reherniate that disc soon after. I was in so much pain that I had a colleague of mine at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles perform a cervical spinal fusion on me because it was still before the approval of the artificial disc.
About nine years later the disc above it failed. It degenerated and herniated with the same symptoms, which is what we see when patients have fusions; the adjacent level breaks down more rapidly. It's usually about 8-10 years. Then the other disc tends to fail. In my third surgery I had an artificial disc placed at C5-C6. In January, I had a bone spur building up and pinching my nerve. There's one technique to go through the front of the neck to release this spur but it's a little different then the traditional way. I had done this technique, which can be tricky, with a colleague of mine who moved to Austin, Texas, so I had him fix my neck and do another lumbar surgery at the same time to get everything cleaned up.
Altogether I have three artificial discs and one fusion performed in my lower back. I have one normal disc left and I'm not optimistic that one is going to last. Right now I have no symptoms and the disc looks great on film. However, I'm pretty sure that bottom disc in my lower back is going to fail eventually, so I'll have to get another one.