Multiple surgeries to stabilize Janet Sikiyan’s spine have alleviated her pain and increased her ability to get around.

Janet Sikiyan, a local Porter Ranch resident and certified public accountant, struggled with neck and spinal pain since 2008 when she was involved in a serious car accident. Janet underwent a difficult spine surgery to repair her C5-C6 vertebrae, and for six years, she was pain-free. Over time, though, she began to feel pain, numbness and tingling radiating down her arm, the same symptoms she had experienced before her first surgery. Janet returned to her initial surgeon and learned that he no longer performed spinal surgeries. He did, however, refer her to Frank L. Acosta Jr., MD, associate professor of clinical neurological surgery and the Keck School of Medicine of USC and spine surgeon at the USC Spine Center at Keck Medicine of USC.

Dr. Acosta and his team take a conservative approach to spinal treatment, with surgery as the last resort. But Janet is in a minority of 10 percent of the population who experience pain months or years after undergoing surgery. “She falls into the category of people who, after their first surgery, break down in another area, which requires additional surgery,” Dr. Acosta said.

Ideally, Janet’s first surgery was supposed to fuse the spine together, meaning that the bone would grow and fuse together the segment of spine repaired during surgery. This didn’t happen, and Janet’s pain slowly crept back. Always very active, Janet gave up ice hockey and other rigorous sports. “I was very limited in the type of exercise I could do,” she said. “I didn’t have the strength or mobility; it limited me to walking my dog. I even suffered severe pain driving to work and I had to change my entire office set-up so that I stood for most of the day. Sitting was excruciating.”

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Dr. Acosta surmised that Janet’s condition was adjacent segment degeneration. “This condition occurs when one part of the spine is repaired, but because it is fused in place, removing any motion, it places additional stress on the discs above and below the fusion,” Dr. Acosta said. “These discs are damaged over time, which accelerates their degeneration.”

Janet continued to have surgery, only to experience pain in another part of her spine. Finally, after six surgeries, Dr. Acosta performed a posterior cervical fusion as a backup procedure to strengthen Jane’s spine. “I basically have screws and rods from my neck down the length of my entire cervical spine,” Janet said. “This was probably the most invasive surgery of all.” Her last procedure in November 2017 removed her C3-C4 disc. “At this point, I have no more discs in my neck; everything’s been fused together,” Janet said.

The good news is that Janet’s pain has now disappeared completely. “Sure, my mobility has been compromised, along with my range of motion, and I have to be careful about turning my neck,” she said. “But otherwise I am living a normal life. Dr. Acosta has told me I can do anything I want.”

Janet credits her recovery to both Dr. Acosta and the team at Keck Medicine of USC. “He is a miracle worker,” she said. “Dr. Acosta always made me feel very comfortable going into surgery. His team is amazing — so caring and experie

nced. And having been hospitalized at other facilities, I can tell you that the Keck Medicine of USC facility is second to none.”

Likewise, Dr. Acosta credits Janet’s recovery to her stamina. “No one wants to undergo these complex surgeries, but Janet experienced an excruciating amount of pain from her degenerative conditions, and we had exhausted all other options,” he said. “What is impressive is that through her mental fortitude and emotional strength, she managed to survive the ordeal and continue working and maintaining her normal life.”

“I am so glad that Diana Bosna, my sister, has stuck by my side through my multiple surgeries,” says Janet. “She is my biggest advocate, supporter and my rock. While the recovery at times felt challenging, my sister was with me through it all. With the healing hands of Dr. Acosta and the support I received from my sister, I am now able to lead a healthy normal life, enjoying the things I love the most pain free — including my passion for hockey.”

Now Janet is back to watching The Kings play at the Staples Center with her season tickets and enjoying her pain-free life. That’s just another example of The Keck Effect.

By Heidi Tyline King