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Success Stories

Nonsurgical Patient Success Stories | Surgical Patient Success Stories

Dog sled champion back on the trails after non-surgical treatment relieves neck pain symptoms

dr humphreys patient success story alaska spine physician

As an outdoorsman, commercial fisherman, and the 1984 Iditarod Champion, Dean enjoys an active lifestyle. Last fall, Dean’s snowmobile got stuck in the ice while he was out for a ride. He was lifting the snowmobile when he felt a sharp shooting pain in his neck. Dean figured the pain would go away after some rest.

Unfortunately, instead of getting better, his neck pain worsened and was accompanied by stiffness and pain into his arm. Dean made an appointment with his general practitioner to see what the problem was. His doctor examined Dean and ordered diagnostic imaging. After reviewing the diagnostics, the doctor referred Dean to Dr. Craig Humphreys, a fellowshiptrained orthopedic surgeon at Kenai Spine in Soldotna.

Dean made an appointment with Kenai Spine and at his appointment, Dr. Humphreys ordered a CT Scan and MRI of Dean’s cervical spine. The results revealed that Dean had a bone infection (or osteomyelitis) in his cervical spine at C5-C6. Osteomyelitis is an infection of the bone cells which can lead to infections in other parts of the body if not treated properly. Dean’s infection was dangerously close to his spinal column and Dr. Humphreys understood the urgency of treating the infection quickly.

The orthopedic surgeon directed Dean to go to the hospital where blood tests and a bone biopsy were performed to help determine the antibiotic that would best treat the infection. Meanwhile, Dean’s neck and arm pain was near unbearable, at a level 9 on a scale of 10. “When I learned how serious my condition was, I considered traveling to New York for treatment. Dr. Humphreys put me at ease that I could stay in the Kenai Peninsula, near my home, for treatment,” Dean reflects.

While in the hospital, Dean was given the choice of staying two more months in the hospital for continuing treatment, or having a PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) line inserted. Dean chose the latter option and a PICC line was inserted in Dean’s arm to begin aggressive antibiotic treatment of the osteomyelitis. It took some time to determine the optimal antibiotic and dosage necessary to treat the infection. Dean’s condition would require several months of antibiotics, along with medication to manage his pain level to get the infection under control.

Ultimately, the aggressive non-surgical care for Dean’s spinal infection treated the condition — and surgery was not necessary. “It’s always been my treatment philosophy to hold spine surgery as the last treatment option to explore — after all non-surgical options have been exhausted,” Dr. Humphreys explains.

The road to recovery was not easy for Dean though. “I’m thankful I felt the sharp pain that day while out on my snowmobile. If my condition had gone untreated, the infection so close to my spinal column could have been fatal,” Dean says.

Today, Dean is nearly pain free and continues to return to a more normal lifestyle. His blood count is good and his CT scans are clear. Dean has returned to some commercial fishing and is back to training with his sled dogs and 4-wheelers on the beaches of Cook Inlet, Alaska. “Soon the snow will arrive and we will do the ‘real thing’ (train the dogs with sleds),” Dean says. “Training and racing sled dogs can be quite rigorous and one can get bounced around a lot. Of course, I will be extra careful not to crash too many times!”

Click here to download a PDF detailing Dean's successful non-surgical spine recovery with Dr. Humphreys.







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Where to find us

Kenai Spine is proud to announce that we have moved into our new spine center at 240 Hospital Place, Suite 103, in Soldotna, Alaska. Over the past few years, Kenai Spine has become a referral center for those with back and neck pain with patients coming from as far away as Anchorage, Fairbanks and Seward. Click here for driving directions.

Physician Bios
Medical Animations

S. Craig Humphreys, MD
Fellowship-trained spine surgeon
Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon

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Mark Simonson, MD
Board Certified in PM&R
Board Certified in Pain Medicine