The patient, Michelle Dawson (pictured right), had been suffering chronic pain in her arm and, after a bout of severe numbness, the procedure was recommended as treatment.
Taking inspiration from colleagues in America who are already carrying out the disc replacement surgery as a day case operation, Mr Friesem looked into the logistics of doing so at NTH.
To make this a success, teamwork was absolutely essential. The patient would be admitted in the morning, sent through to theatres for the operation, referred into the access lounge as a day case followed by a session with the physiotherapy team to assess recovery. Finally, the surgeon would visit the patient to talk them through their discharge whilst removing drains etc.
This is still considered complex surgery, but Mr Friesem has worked hard to put measures in place to facilitate the procedure as a day case. This is possible because the surgery involves going in through the front of the neck and so no muscle tissue is affected, which often causes post-surgery pain and the need for nurse led after care.
The spinal unit was opened at the trust in 1995 and Mr Friesem joined in 2002. He is recognised globally for his work around degenerative spine conditions and the dynamic stabilisation of the spine, including disc replacement. The trust has been carrying out cervical disc replacement since 2006, they have carried out more procedures than any other trust in the country and therefore have vast experience. The overall aim is for all one level spinal surgeries in the appropriate patients to be completed as a day case, with a view to working towards this with other levels or surgery.
Michelle Dawson said “I was really nervous on the day of my surgery, but the staff at the hospital really put me at ease. Mr Friesem explained the procedure in great detail so I knew what to expect. The staff were brilliant – from the anaesthetist right through to the surgeon. Being able to have the surgery as a day case really helped with the anxiety because I knew I would be going home to recover at the end of the day. The aftercare was fantastic – I left the hospital with more than enough information and advice to see me through to my aftercare appointment. My advice to anyone who is offered the operation as a day case is to take it – I had a fantastic experience and I am now well on the road to recovery.”
Mr Tai Friesem, spinal surgeon at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust said “We are in a great position at the trust where we have vastly experienced teams who have been assisting with spinal surgery procedures for over ten years. We are always looking for ways to work more efficiently and improve the patient experience – being able to send patients home to their own bed to recover after major surgery certainly counts towards this. I’m delighted with the feedback we have received from Mrs Dawson and I am pleased to say she is recovering very well. ”