PLANO, Texas – Some stress fractures that happen to young athletes who put a lot of stress on the lower back.
It can be debilitating when one vertebra slips onto another.
Twelve-year old Kaleigh Clemons practiced gymnastics beginning at age five.
"I could do back handsprings all over the yard, I practiced all the time."
She developed severe back pain and was finally diagnosed with spondylolisthesis, a spinal deformity, made worse by extreme physical stress.
"She was looking at a very difficult life ahead of her with back pain and leg pain if this was left untreated," explained Dr. Isador Lieberman, orthopedic surgeon and president of the Texas Back Institute.
Kaleigh's father Mark had his worst fears disappear when he talked with doctors.
"He looked me square in the face and he told me, she's going to dance again."
Now just four months after surgery, Kaleigh is dancing, regaining her balance and lifting weights, and she is two and a half inches taller.
Dr. Lieberman credits a new tool at his disposal.
"This is the ultrasonic bone scalpel, as one of my former fellows said, this is the game changer."
The ultrasonic bone scalpel vibrates 22,500 times per second to precisely cut bone. The tip is not sharp and bounces off soft tissue so it is a safer, less intrusive way of doing spinal surgery.
NEW TECHNOLOGY: The ultrasonic BoneScalpel is a tissue-specific device that allows the surgeon to make precise osteotomies while protecting collateral or adjacent soft tissue structures. The device is comprised of a blunt ultrasonic blade with an imperceptible microscopic amplitude. The recurring impacts pulverize the noncompliant crystalline structure resulting in a precise cut. The more compliant adjacent soft tissue is not affected by the ultrasonic oscillation. If used properly, this device may decrease the risk of soft tissue injury associated with the use of high- speed burrs and oscillating saws during spine surgery.
Kaleigh is just happy it worked.
"I can't believe where I am now."
"In January we were facing a wheelchair, diapers, all those things that go through our heads, to now where she's riding her bike," said Kaleigh's mother, Cassie.
Dr. Lieberman says when Kaleigh's back heals completely she would be able to resume gymnastics if she wanted.