Why Steve chose SkyGen for Spine Surgery in Germany - SkyGen

Why Steve chose SkyGen for Spine Surgery in Germany

Steve is a 46 year old Company Director from Christchurch, New Zealand. He injured his lower back in a gym accident in 2013, describing the immediate pain as an “electric shock”.

His X-Rays and MRI showed he had damaged his L4/5 spinal disc. He tried conservative treatment to no avail, and in 2015 he underwent a micro-discectomy procedure, as recommended by a local spine surgeon in New Zealand.

Unfortunately for Steve’s case, this procedure of removing part of his unstable spine only created greater instability, and only 12 months later he was meeting with his surgeon again to discuss spinal fusion. Due to Steve’s active lifestyle (gym, bike riding, canoeing and snow boarding) and likely risk of post-fusion “adjacent segment disease”, he wanted to avoid a spinal fusion. As no surgeons in New Zealand offer lumbar Artificial Disc Replacement (ADR), Steve researched motion-preserving solutions overseas and came across SkyGen.

As the local Australian & New Zealand representatives of the senior Neurosurgeons at ONZ Germany, we stepped in and helped Steve receive an assessment of his case. Within 7 days he was accepted for Artificial Disc Replacement with the latest M6-L Disc, and Dr. Thomas Bierstedt would be his surgeon. Unlike older generations of ADR Disc still used by many surgeons today, the M6 disc is the only disc that can move in 6 directions, including shock absorption, and it’s controlled motion makes it safe for use in multiple levels as required.

Within 6 weeks Skygen coordinated and organised all the small details of Steve’s medical travel journey, and he was ready to go.

Steve travelled to Germany for his M6 Disc Replacement in late 2016

Skygen Artificial Disc Replacement New Zealand Patient
Recovering in his private ward room at the Evangelisches Krankenhaus Hospital in Hattingen, Germany

Before and After Disc Replacement for L4/L5
Clear L4/5 Disc Degeneration on the left, and accurate placement/function of the M6 Artificial Disc on the right

Recovering after ADR spine surgery in Germany
7 Days post-op, preparing for rehab at Medicos Aufschalke (Europe’s largest rehab centre)

He wanted to share his story. So we asked him a few important questions below:

1. What was wrong with your spine and how did it effect your work and lifestyle?

Steve: I had a prolapsed disc L4-5 about 4 years ago, the injury greatly affected my life, as many days I would be exhausted from back pain and home by 6pm on the sofa, with weekends laid up trying to recover. It also greatly reduced my ability to have a normal social life. I had become very short tempered in general dealing with the pain.

2. What were your options with spine surgeons in New Zealand?

Steve: I had a discectomy two years earlier but it not work, along with cortisone injections, I was told that a spinal fusion would fix the problem.

3. What made you choose to travel to Germany?

Steve: After researching spinal fusions I knew it was not the answer as it would not get me back to full recovery. I remember waking up on a Sunday morning, shattered from the pain, depressed with the injury controlling my life and thinking there has to be a better solution than a fusion, so I started googling how to fix a prolapse disc, after a short time I found the Skygen website and throughly went through it in detail, then you tube to watch Dr Thomas Bierstedt operating, also continued to review other web sites but felt very comfortable with what I found with Skygen, I had contacted another Australian company but they would not tell me which implant they would use. Red Flag.

I had several conversations with Jake Lemon, he was very open and everything he told me made sense, along with talking to another patient that had been I then knew it was for me.
I was amazed that with 48 hours of uploading my scans to drop box I had a diagnosis, two surgery dates to choose from and the potential of full recovery. Within 4 weeks of contacting Skygen I was in surgery.

4. What was your experience like in Germany with your surgeon and the Medicos Aufschalke rehab centre?

Steve: I was a bit nervous going to Germany by myself. Meeting Dr Bierstedt was great he was very personable and put me at ease before the surgery answering all my questions as there were few. The Rehab center was great, there I met more patients that had similar surgeries. The Doctors and therapists were very professional and great to chat with as we got to know each other throughout the week. I was amazed that six days after surgery I was on a treadmill at the gym.

5. What lifestyle can you enjoy now that you’re home and recovered?

Steve: The recovery has been amazing, , my friends were completely surprised to see me walking when I returned home, twenty five days after surgery I walked 13 kilometres. There were a few weeks I was slack on the exercises and my body slowed up but after a conversation with Jake I was in the gym and walking a lot which very quickly got me back on track. After three months I returned to normal activity, swimming, gym and progressively lifting heavier items, five months on I have no hesitation in lifting or engaging in any activity.

6. What would you say to anyone considering travelling to Germany for spine surgery?

Steve: The advise that I had received for fusion being the answer is simply from Doctors/ Surgeons that don’t know any better and are simply not trained in the latest techniques now available in Germany. It is extremly disappointing to be faced with the option of fusion, but as I did I would suggest taking your health into your own hands and getting the best medical care available.

I would suggest to watch the surgeries on you tube of the ONZ Surgeons along with talking to a patient that’s had it done.

For me it was a life changing experience from the injury controlling my life to now having my life back I am very grateful.

Many Thanks to Jake, Dr Bierstedt and the team that made this all possible.

Regards Steve

Returning to a Healthy lifestyle at home in New Zealand

Walking after Disc Replacement Surgery in Germany

Photo taken after a 13km walk, just 4 weeks post-surgery (Yes, he was a little tender after this)

Steve sent us this video (below) of high intensity strength and conditioning with his NZ physio 5 months post-operation


Steve has generously made himself available to talk with any new SkyGen patients who’ve been recommended spine surgery in Germany. We have new happy patients returning from Germany every week, and many are happy to give some of their time as a “reference” to speak with new patients. We aim to put new patients in touch with someone around the same age, with a similar lifestyle, who’s already had the same surgery that’s been recommended for them.

Have you received a diagnosis or been recommended for spinal surgery?

Contact SkyGen today with any questions, and our team are happy to assist you. So far we’ve helped patients travel from Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Singapore and South Africa to Germany for motion-preserving spine surgery. We are experts at coordinating every little detail of the medical travel journey from start to finish.

*Please read: Although the information provided on this page may describe a particular patient experience and/or outcome, readers must understand that each patient presents with a unique medical history and may be recommended a different treatment/surgery by their surgeon to that described above. Individual results may vary between surgery centre/hospital, surgeon, surgery type and patient. Although SkyGen agrees to share all updates from patients at their request, SkyGen does not endorse any physical activities attempted by patients following surgery which do not follow the explicit instructions provided by their surgeon. SkyGen encourages all patients to discuss the risks of such activities with medical professionals before attempting these themselves.

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Written by SkyGen Public Relations

This content is copyright and property of SkyGen Spinal & Orthopaedic. It was written to educate our patients in making informed decisions regarding their own healthcare. SkyGen is Australia's largest international collaboration between world class regenerative medicine clinics and orthopaedic hospitals.