New, less invasive procedure relieves 10 year old boy's back pain

Jul 8, 2013

A ten year old Bismarck boy is pain-free – after undergoing a non-invasive procedure to treat a non-cancerous tumor on his spine.

As Prairie Public’s Dave Thompson reports, the procedure meant the boy did not have to undergo back surgery.

10 year old River Kinworthy’s back pain was keeping him up at night.       

“Usually when they asked me from a scale of one to 10, I sometimes said a 7 or a ten.”

“It wasn’t keeping him from functioning normally," said his mother, Julie Kinworthy. "But specifically this type of tumor causes a lot of pain at night, which is what he was having.”

“He would wake up in the middle of the night, and have pain," said Julie Kinworthy. "We could not find any medication to stop the pain. Ibuprofen and Tylenol did not do anything, and aspiring, which is apparently what helps it, he couldn’t take because of his age.”

Julie Kinworthy took her son to a doctor, who initially couldn’t find anything. But she says a later MRI revealed the tumor – which was benign.

“This particular tumor is called an ‘osteiod osteoma,” said Dr. Sean Kalagher, an “interventional radiologist” at Bismarck's Saint Alexius Medical Center.  “There’s a special part of this tumor – called a nidus, and that’s what causes all the pain. And if you can kill that, or get it out, either with a surgery or kill it with a procedure,  then the pain should go away.”

So, Kalagher says he used imaging to get a needle in to where the nidus was. “And then we blasted it with something called ‘radio frequency.’ Basically, it cooks it and kills it.”

River Kinworthy admits he was hesitant.

“I didn’t want to do it at all, because it sounded really painful," said River Kinworthy. "But it wasn’t that painful when I first did it. But after a couple of hours, it started getting painful.

“Right after the surgery, he was in pain, but it went away within 24 hours, said Julie Kinworthy. "Within two days after the surgery, he was 100 percent pain free, or pretty much.”

River was in the hospital overnight.

Dr. Kalagher says this kind of procedure is much less invasive – and with a much shorter hospital stay than a normal back surgery.

“If he’d have had a back surgery to treat that, he would have been two, three days in the hospital, at least, with a much longer recovery," said Kalagher.

Kalagher says this kind of treatment is also used for other things, such as cardiovascular problems, aneurisms and stroke.