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  Back to previous page ¦ Neurosurgery stories ¦ Search stories

Back in action

Innovative disk surgery helps Mandan man
overcome back pain
Living in North Dakota sometimes means performing a chore not to one’s liking, such as shoveling snow.

But for Mandan’s Daniel Rodgers, it’s enjoyable just to be able to do it.

That’s because the 45-year-old Rodgers, retired from the U.S. Army after serving 24 years, certainly wasn’t able to shovel snow last winter. Nor could he do his favorite outdoor activities—biking, golfing and fishing.

That was the result of the horrific pain in his back, caused by a herniated disc. When the pain would shoot down his leg, it took away the desire and ability to even attempt outdoor activities.

“The pain in my right leg was sometimes unbearable,” Rodgers said. “I couldn’t ride bike, golf or even shovel snow. Driving even bothered me because of the leg pain.”

The herniated disc was diagnosed by Sanford Health Neurosurgeon Dr. Alan Van Norman in January 2009.

“I had a history of neck issues, but not back problems,” Rodgers said. “I did do physical therapy for about a month, but there was no improvement. It just got worse.”

Dr. Van Norman performed the surgery in June. It proved to be successful.

  Dan Rodgers is back in action after an innovative disk surgery
An innovative back surgery procedure offered at Sanford Medical Center helped Dan Rodgers get back to the things he loves—including biking, golf and fishing— as well as winter chores like shoveling snow.
Dr. Alan Van Norman
Alan Van Norman, MD

  “I was in the hospital for one night and the recovery was about six months,” Rodgers said. “The first 30 days was the toughest, but as time moved on it felt much better.” Much to the relief of his wife, Kelly Rodgers.

“Before the surgery, Dan got to the point where he didn’t want to do anything because the pain was so bad,” she said. “But after the surgery I have seen such a difference in his activity level.”

Her husband added, “At the time I was going through the most pain, I did not think I would be able to do anything that I do now.”

The odds of the surgery-repaired disc herniating a second time have been dramatically reduced thanks to the Annulex device used by Dr. Van Norman at

Sanford Health. Dr. Van Norman was the first and is the only surgeon in North Dakota using the innovative procedure. “The device is used to close a hole in the disc after surgery for herniated discs,” Dr. Van Norman said. “Its main purpose is to reduce the risk of a disc herniating a second time after a first surgery.”

He said the published national averages for re-herniating after surgery is about 15 percent.

“We estimate this device reduces the risk to about 1 to 2 percent in selected patients. It hasn’t been around long enough for long-term data to be collected.”

However, the Bismarck surgeon didn’t offer any guarantees to his patient.

“The doctor told me that nothing is 100 percent with surgery, but he felt confident it would help,” Rodgers said.

Today, Dr. Van Norman’s patient is grateful, even though he still has some soreness. But it’s a far cry from a year ago.

“I have some soreness every once in a while, but nothing compared to the pain I felt before the surgery,” Rodgers said. “The surgery has definitely helped me get back to where I was before the injury.”

Rodgers, now a Regional Wind Site Manager with Nextera Energy Resources in North Dakota and South Dakota, and his wife will soon celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. They have two children, both currently serving in the military—son, DJ, in Iraq and daughter, Dara, in Germany.

Meanwhile, Dan Rodgers offers some advice to anyone with similar back problems: the pain can be eliminated.

“I would recommend it,” he said of the surgery using the Annulex device. “Dr. Van Norman did an excellent job. I trusted him because he was confident he could help me.”

Thus, he’s able to play golf, ride a bike and go fishing. There’s no pain when he’s driving his car nor when he’s shoveling snow.

“I don’t smile while shoveling snow,” Rodgers said, “but the neighbors do know that I’m feeling better.”

Click here for more information on Sanford Health’s neurosurgery department.


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