Scoliosis spine surgery for a difficult case

Kim TerBeek thought she would have to live with the pain

After suffering with undiagnosed scoliosis for years, Kim TerBeek is able to do many of the things she loved to do.

After suffering with undiagnosed scoliosis for years, patient Kim TerBeek is finally able to do many of the things she loved to do.

Scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, can occur at any age—even adulthood. A primary care physician or spine specialist should be able to detect the condition. But, that wasn’t the case for Kim TerBeek.

“I saw several doctors and none of them said I had scoliosis,” TerBeek says. “I even had two back surgeries and was still taking 10 to 15 pain pills a day for the pain. I couldn’t do simple tasks like vacuuming. Then I saw a doctor in Holland, Michigan, who told me I had a 46-degree curve in my spine and that it was the worst case of scoliosis he had ever seen.

“He couldn’t help me, but he referred me to Dr. Frank LaMarca. He said Dr. LaMarca was one of only six doctors in the United States who did the kind of surgery I needed.” 

The extent of the scoliosis

Spine surgery before and after

Before and after: Kim TerBeek had a 46-degree curve in her spine before Dr. Frank LaMarca operated. Her scoliosis went undiagnosed for more than a decade.

LaMarca says, “Mrs. TerBeek had a significant spinal imbalance. Without correcting her spinal balance, any type of intervention would have been useless for her. Multiple bone cuts called osteotomies were made in her spinal column in order to achieve the desired result.”

Mrs. TerBeek underwent a long and complex spinal fusion procedure and received a new innovative spinal hardware that was being tested.

“The new instrumentation used in Mrs. TerBeek’s case will hopefully reduce the strain at the top of her operated segments and thus also reduce the risks for failure as well as the need for further surgery in the future. So far the results seem to be very promising,” says La Marca.

A nationwide clinical trial

Fortunately for TerBeek, Dr. LaMarca’s team was collaborating in the nationwide Proximal Junctional Kyphosis study. They were the only team in Michigan to participate in the randomized clinical trial studying the use of new innovative spinal hardware.

“Not everybody could be in the trial,” TerBeek says. “It was like drawing a name out of a hat! But I got a spot!”

A pain-free life

Today, Kim TerBeek is doing very well. “I was supposed to be in the hospital 10 days and I got out in 5. Three days after the surgery, I had no pain. Before this, I thought Iwould just have to live with the pain,” says Mrs. Terbeek. “I love to garden and work outside in the yard. I can do that again. I haven’t felt this good in 15 years.

“I feel like I have my life back. I feel like I’m alive again.”

Next steps

Frank_La_Marca_March_23_2016Frank LaMarca, M.D., received his medical degree from Catholic University in Italy. He completed both a residency in neurosurgery and a fellowship in complex spine surgery at Northwestern University in Illinois. Dr. LaMarca joined the University of Michigan’s Department of Neurosurgery in 2003. He specializes in adult and pediatric complex spinal deformity and scoliosis surgery.


Clinical-Neurosciences-signature-verticalThe University of Michigan’s multidisciplinary clinical neuroscience team is made up of more than 70 nationally recognized neurologists, neurosurgeons and many other specialists who have led the way in brain, spine and nervous system care for close to 100 years. Today, patients can access services found at only a handful of facilities and may participate in innovative treatments conducted with the latest research. Neurology and Neurosurgery at the University of Michigan Health System have been recognized by U.S. News & World Report numerous times for excellence in patient care.