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St Lukes Orthopaedic Surgeon Performs Groundbreaking Procedure

St. Luke’s Orthopaedic Surgeon Relieves Lower Back Pain With Sacroiliac Joint Surgery

Patients Experience Nearly Immediate Pain Relief, Fast Recovery

Steven Puccio, DO

Steven Puccio, DO

Bethlehem, PA (4/1/2014) -- You have seen them. Their pained, tired expressions and slow, stilted movements make sufferers of low back pain easy to spot.

Identifying the cause of suffering, however, is not so simple. In fact, the back is not necessarily even the source. A recent study suggests that the sacroiliac (SI) joint is the root of lower back and buttock pain for one in four individuals. Fortunately, a minimally invasive SI fusion procedure available at St. Luke’s University Hospital-Bethlehem can relieve the misery.

Steven Puccio, DO of St. Luke’s Orthopaedic Specialists is the surgeon performing the groundbreaking procedure, which enables the patient to heal far more quickly – two to three weeks versus the six months typical of the traditional sacroiliac fusion procedure. Dr. Puccio, who performs an average of six SI procedures a month, has witnessed the dramatic changes it makes in his patients’ lives.

Sacroiliac (SI) joint fusion is a surgical procedure that uses small titanium implants to stabilize the SI joint. The sacroiliac joint supports the pelvis and bears the load of the upper body. It also acts as a shock absorber, preventing impact forces from reaching the spine.

Dr. Puccio explains that during SI joint fusion, the surgeon makes a 2 to 3 centimeter incision in the patient’s hip. Then, using a fluoroscopically-assisted imaging system, the physician inserts the implants, usually three, each about two finger-widths apart. Most patients return home within a couple of days.

Lori Dolansky, a nurse and mother of two boys, can attest to the procedure’s effectiveness. She suffered from intense lower backache that radiated twinges of pain from her buttocks down both legs. Never letting it stop her from fulfilling her responsibilities, she frequently paid the price in pain when she returned home. Often she was confined to resting on the couch.

Lori Dolansky 

Lori Dolansky underwent SI surgery in both hips – and enjoys a pain-free, active life!

Lori had surgery on the first SI joint on Jan. 8, 2013 and by the beginning of mid-February was back to work, lifting patients and walking on the hard concrete floors. She had the second surgery 10 weeks later for the other hip. The staff of same-day surgery unit at the Bethlehem Campus provided her with excellent care.

“For a major surgery, the recovery was not bad at all,” she said. “I had to take it slow for about a month, but then I was doing my regular normal activities; actually, better than normal because now the pain was gone.”

“I didn’t have the shooting pains,” she said. “I didn’t feel like my back was going to snap. The newfound stability in her back has allowed Lori to enjoy activities like walking the dog, taking photographs for her sons’ sports teams, and playing sports with the boys in the yard.

“My son has promised to buy me my own lacrosse stick,” she adds. “I want a pink one.”

Think You Might Benefit from SI Joint Surgery

Orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Steven Puccio is on a crusade to educate primary care physicians to identify and diagnose back pain caused by the sacroiliac (SI) joint. Throughout his career, he has seen many patients who have suffered for years, even decades, because the condition was not diagnosed properly. Worse yet, some patients have experienced unnecessary spinal disc surgery due to a misdiagnosis.

“I recently treated a gentleman who had previously undergone lumbar fusion surgery,” he said. “Because he had been misdiagnosed, the surgery did not stop his intense pain. Two weeks after the SI fusion procedure, however, he was in my office singing and dancing.”

Dr. Puccio frequently presents lectures to groups of family medicine physicians and welcomes questions from his colleagues. He also encourages individuals experiencing common symptoms to raise the possibility of an SI disorder with their primary care physicians.

Symptoms are:

  • Difficulty sitting for long periods
  • Trouble sleeping comfortably
  • Experiencing pain when lying or bending
  • Buttocks tenderness
  • Legs giving out

A thorough examination begins with a discussion. It is important that the patient tell the doctor the precise location and level of pain. Also, the patient should describe any injury that might have affected the pelvis.

If an SI joint problem is suspected, the primary care physician might refer the patient to an orthopaedic specialist at this point. To pinpoint the diagnosis, the physician might suggest injections. If an injection of numbing medicine into the sacroiliac joint stops the pain, it's the likely source or contributing to the problem.

About Dr. Puccio

Dr. Puccio specializes in orthopaedic spine surgery. He sees patients at St. Luke’s Ortho Specialists’ offices in Allentown and Bethlehem.If you have a question about a service or specialty, please call us to discuss your specific needs or make an appontment. Call St. Luke's Orthopaedic Specialists 484-526-1735. He is offering the following free community talk:

Suffering from Unresolved Lower Back Pain?
Dr. Puccio will discuss the latest technologies to help patients with unresolved lower back pain.
6 – 7 pm on Wednesday, April 23
Dimmig Eucation Center
St. Luke's Hospital – Allentown Campus
1736 Hamilton Street
Allentown, PA 18104

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Contact

Denise E. Rader
Director, Network Media Relations
St. Luke's University Health Network
484-526-4104
Denise.Rader@sluhn.org