Featured Review

Mark Nolden MD / NorthShore Medical Group : Lumbar Microdiscectomy Hemilaminectomy

I am unfortunate to have had multiple surgeries, both in general and on my back. I am also unfortunate in that both of the recoveries from my lumbar microdiscectomies didn’t quite go to plan. I’m not going to repeat how I got to the place where I needed a second microdiscectomy. Or technically, a revision microdiscectomy and hemilaminectomy. I only say that to provide context; getting old sucks, but the alternative is worse. So when I say that Mark Nolden, MD is both a good surgeon and an excellent doctor, there’s some history framing the statement.

Dr Nolden performed my revision microdiscectomy on June 29th. Before that I met with him and his PA in person twice. They answered the questions I brought with me, were available for follow-up questions through the secure messaging service that NorthShore uses, and provided an order for a steroid shot to bridge the month between initial consultation and surgery.

That was back in May. It would have been nice to get it done earlier, but I had some things going on in early June that made it impossible for me to schedule the procedure sooner. Getting the steroid shot was massive. I don’t want to rehash my experience with the previous surgeon’s lack of empathy, but it’s hard for me not to with things like this. It was life changing, and I know that sounds trite. But it really was the difference between manageable and miserable.

The morning of the 29th I walked into the NorthShore Hospital in Skokie at 6AM, and walked out around 11AM. Everything went well with the surgery, but when I got there I had a question with one of the forms. I thought I was just getting the hemilaminectomy, turns out that plan was to remove a small amount of reherniated disc material, loosen scar tissue, and that jumble of letters (which I still struggle to say correctly) which means to carve out some lamina bone to make space for the nerve. All of which is covered under the term “revision microdiscectomy”, which were the words on the form. Dr Nolden was cool about explaining that to me (again), went back over the plan, and we all good. You might be sensing a trend here, but just in case it isn’t clear. The level of communication and willingness to explain things to me, multiple times, was fantastic.

Post surgery was fairly smooth, got a slightly different mix of drugs including antibiotics and a methylprednisolone pack. The biggest difference was around the documentation I brought home. For example, the previous surgeon told me “don’t drive for two weeks”, this time I was told why I shouldn’t drive for three weeks. That difference is minor, but knowing why means that it’s easier to make better choices about the other things that might be like driving that you also should avoid.

I mentioned that the recovery didn’t go to plan. Something bad happened around four weeks post-surgery. Given the symptoms and a healthy sprinkling of previous experience, I’m confident that a minor reherniation occurred. I waited two days to see if it was in my head. Hoping that the symptoms would settle down. Then messaged Dr Nolden when they didn’t. His PA called me back. I explained my symptoms. She offered a methylprednisolone pack and an order for an MRI; I took both. The plan was to see what happened with the steroids, and schedule the MRI for ~2 weeks out just in case things didn’t improve. This is exactly how I wanted to be treated. With concern and empathetic action.

Fortunately, the steroid took the edge off, and my symptoms tamped down enough that I decided not to get the MRI. They were still at a “something is wrong” level so I thought it was important to get some guidance around how best to proceed. I reached out through the messaging service again. Dr Nolden’s PA messaged me right back, and said that’s great, keep the restrictions for three more weeks, scaffold up activity afterwards, and reach out if there are any further concerns.

A friend recommended Dr Nolden to me. He also had a good experience. Both with the surgical outcome, communication, and empathetic action when he needed it. So if you need a back surgeon and live in Chicago (I’m sorry, it really sucks, I hope it works out and you can get some relief) I would also recommend Dr Nolden. I’m still waiting to see what the long term outcome will be for me. Hopefully I can at least get to “managed”, but if the next step includes surgery, I will be reaching out to him and the team again.

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