Dr. John Aldridge of Hampton Roads Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, right, performs minimally invasive pelvic surgery to ease lower back pain at Mary Immaculate Hospital on April 17.

Aldridge, the surgeon, watched the screens as he made a short incision before inserting a tool to position the guidewire. There were light tapping and hammering sounds before he called repeatedly for "stimulation," or electric current. Tense moments followed when the response was an unexpected positive. "Do you have it set up right? I'm not anywhere near any nerves," he said, repeating the call.

Then came the reply he wanted: "No response, nothing." The use of nerve monitoring has eliminated any problems with misplacement of the implants causing nerve pain, Aldridge explained after the surgery. "It's a weird-shaped anatomy. You're looking from the side and it can be overlapping," he said.

The next few minutes were spent drilling out the bone and using a rasp to create space, then hammering in the first implant, followed by the second and third, all through the same 2-to-3-inch incision. He used a different angle for each.

"The first one is the hardest," said Aldridge, observing the rods that appeared like little torpedoes on the screen, while a small trickle of blood oozed from the wound.

At 13:25 p.m., he pronounced, "All done."

The outcome

If her recovery continues on schedule, Thomas plans to get her left side done next month.

For Mark Makowski of Yorktown who had surgery with Aldridge earlier this year, first on his right side, then on his left, the two operations have been life-changers. "I'm feeling great. I'm feeling saved," he said. Just as with the other patients he had not been offered the option before.

When he learned about it, "it seemed like it was talking directly to me," Makowski said, and subsequent diagnostic testing showed he was the perfect candidate. He's back at work and able to walk in the neighborhood with his wife and dog.

"Every day I'd wake up with pain that was with me all day. It's a remarkable difference," he said.

Salasky can be reached by phone at 757-247-4784.

Watch online

See a video of the surgery at http://www.dailypress.com.