Whether you are a football fan or not, most of us have seen or read about former Indianapolis Colts quarterback, Peyton Manning’s, neck surgery. 23-year-old University of Louisville graduate student, Zack Weatherholt, never thought he’d be compared to Peyton Manning, or have to undergo neck surgery at such an early age, but he and Manning do have something in common – a surgery that Zack learned about on ESPN.
Severe, unexplained pain
Zack was experiencing neck and back pain along his shoulder blades, and shooting pain down his right arm. The pain was so intense that he was having trouble driving, and could not sit down without terrible pain, that included numbness and weakness in his hand. He explains, “The pain was so bad I couldn’t study and was forced to drop out of classes.”
He sought help from his primary care physician, Martha Knighton, MD, who ordered an MRI. After reading the radiologist’s report, she called Zack immediately to tell him he needed to see a surgeon right away. She referred him to Dr. Mohammad E. Majd, MD, board certified orthopedic and spine surgeon at the Floyd Memorial Spine Center, who saw him the next day. “I liked Dr. Majd right away, he was straight forward with me and explained everything so that I had a good understanding of what I needed to do,” said Zack.
— Martha Knighton, MD | Family Medicine Physician
Physician Associates of Floyds Knobs
Condition called for a quick response
Dr. Majd explained, “Surgery needed to be done quickly in order to reduce further damage to the spinal cord and nerve endings in his hand and arm. Because of Zack’s specific circumstances and the disc herniation in his neck, I performed an anterior cervical discectomy, decompression and fusion of the C6-C7 cervical discs. This is similar to Peyton Manning’s third surgery to relieve his pain – approaching the disc from the front of the neck, removing most of it to relieve the compression against the spinal cord and nerves, then inserting a plastic spacer filled with bone graft into that space that will promote the growing together of the two vertebrae. A titanium plate is then inserted to make it stable. Fusion has been done for many years and has shown good results. Because we go along the plain of the muscle, recovery time is quicker. Most patients go home the same day and can resume normal levels of activity, although it takes two to four months for the bone graft to successfully fuse the vertebrae and completely heal.”
— Mohammad E. Majd, MD | Board Certified Orthopedic and Spine Surgeon | Floyd Memorial Spine Center
Floyd Memorial Medical Group – Orthopedics
He added, “Zack’s condition was genetic, his neck had no curvature and the degeneration eventually led to a herniated disc, but he has the ability to build curvature in his neck with exercise and physical therapy.”
Back in the game
Zack felt instant relief in his arm after surgery. Because of his young age, Dr. Majd expects Zack to have full mobility in his hand with the help of physical therapy and strengthening exercises. Zack is working out again, playing basketball and pursuing his MBA. “Dr. Majd and the staff at the Floyd Memorial Spine Center were so good to me. I would tell anyone having neck or back problems to see them.”
Top Left: Herniated disc is removed and spinal cord decompressed.
Middle: Spacer with bone graft material is inserted.
Bottom: Titanium plate is attached to vertebrae.