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Spine Surgery Gives Wasilla Man His Life Back

By Chris Klint, Senior Digital Producer, cklint@ktuu.com
Published On: Feb 25 2014 10:25:57 PM AKST

A Wasilla man facing constant back pain says he tried many other options before turning to a serious solution -- spine surgery.

ANCHORAGE -

A Wasilla man facing constant back pain says he tried many other options before turning to a serious solution -- spine surgery.

Robert Heintzman says he tried various methods of relieving his back pain, including laser surgery a few years ago. But as he discovered, sometimes new technology and advances in medicine are not always the best option.

Heintzman says he’s frequently about midway up a 10-point scale used in hospitals to determine severity of pain.

“I've been in pain for several years,” Heintzman said. “I'm usually at a 5 all the time and then I get pain going down my legs and lower hip area.”

After trying different chiropractors and therapy, Heintzman received laser surgery in the Lower 48 to treat pinched nerves in his spine, but it was only temporarily successful. Now, he's about to go under the knife,  and under the care of Dr. Marius Maxwell.

“This is a classic surgery, certainly generations old,” Maxwell said. “And sometimes people's problems are not problems that can be solved with a tiny incision or an endoscope.”

Maxwell, the chief neurosurgeon and founder of newly opened Arctic Spine in Anchorage, says he views surgery as the last resort.

“I think anyone who undergoes spine surgery should exhaust all other conservative options, and I think this gentleman has,” Maxwell said.

During the surgery, Maxwell is essentially opening up the pinched areas in Heintzman's spine that are causing him pain.

“(It’s) rather like if you laid down some cable, and the cable is pinched at different segments,” Maxwell said.

Heintzman’s condition is called lumbar spinal stinosis, and the procedure to correct it takes about two hours in the operating room. For Maxwell, even with more than 30 years of experience, the excitement is still there.

“You develop a real humility and awe for your craft,” Maxwell said. “Some people say surgeons are arrogant -- I would say good surgeons are humble.”

After the surgery, Maxwell says Heintzman should feel the change right away.

“Usually it's instantaneous relief; the wound heals and he should be back at work soon,” Maxwell said.

About a month later, Heintzman is recovering well.

“Just been doing really good, a little bit of soreness -- I can get up, move around, So within three weeks you're up doing really good,” Heintzman said.

According to Heintzman, his leg pain was gone right away, and these days he's feeling younger.

“It's been nice: can do more stuff with the boys, do activities, football and stuff like that,” Heintzman said. “So it'll be nice, without going out there and hurting doing it.”

After years of living in pain, Heintzman is looking forward to getting some of those years back. Other neurosurgeons in Anchorage perform similar surgeries to his.

The Arctic Spine Clinic opened last fall. Maxwell works with local chiropractors, accupunturists and physical therapists to help patients manage pain relief before surgery is ever an option.