Grateful Patient Thanks Surgeon for Not Operating

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Linda Lifur-Bennett, Ph.D., wants to clarify one thing: She is a patient of Burak Ozgur, M.D., director of the Hoag Spine Center.

No, the Newport Beach neurosurgeon did not operate on Dr. Lifur-Bennett. In fact, he did not perform any procedures on the 70-year-old clinical psychologist. Rather, through his compassion and expertise, Dr. Ozgur prevented Dr. Lifur-Bennett from undergoing an invasive and unnecessary surgery that would not have relieved her debilitating pain.

Under his guidance, Dr. Lifur-Bennett is now pain-free, happy and healthy. So, while Dr. Ozgur did not operate on her, he most certainly healed her.

“Without Dr. Ozgur’s tremendous breadth of knowledge and experience, I fear I would have undergone a major surgery which would have left me in the same progressive pain, an outcome that would have no doubt sent me spiraling into depression,” she shared. “His careful consideration of the nuances of my case, combined with his wisdom and clinical skills, became a medical ‘game-changer’ for me.”

For more than a decade, Dr. Lifur-Bennett experienced significant back pain, but by 2018 the pain had become debilitating. Two non-Hoag surgeons – an orthopedic surgeon and a neurosurgeon – agreed that she required a double lumbar fusion with instrumentation, an invasive back surgery that would have involved implanting hardware into her back to fuse bones together in her spine.

Three weeks before her scheduled surgery, Dr. Lifur-Bennett saw Dr. Ozgur for a third opinion at the urging of her longtime pain management specialist. She said she went to the appointment out of deference to her specialist – she was resigned to surgery and a six-month to year-long recovery period.

So, what she heard during the appointment surprised her.

Dr. Ozgur told Dr. Lifur-Bennett that he suspected the source of her pain wasn’t in her lumbar spine at all. He recommended an electromyography (EMG) nerve test to prove it and instead suspected that her pain originated in the sacroiliac joint, where the hip connects to the sacrum.

She could not believe, Dr. Ozgur told her no surgery was needed, not by him or anyone else. Instead, Dr. Lifur-Bennett’s pain specialist could perform a non-surgical procedure called Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA).

“Within two days I had a 90% reduction in my pain,” she said.

“In addition to being warm, compassionate and engaging, Dr. Ozgur had no ego in this. There was no financial benefit for him, rather his focus was on what was best for his patient. That says everything about his character.”

Dr. Lifur-Bennett now requires an annual RFA procedure, which involves image-guided cauterization of some of her peripheral nerves to interrupt pain signals. The procedure takes 20 minutes under light sedation, and she is back on her feet by the next day.

The experience so affected Dr. Lifur-Bennett, she has since become a Hoag for Lifer.

“At the time, I was not in the Hoag system. Subsequently, I only have Hoag physicians,” she said. “I live in Coto de Caza, so I see Hoag physicians near me, but I’d happily drive to Hoag Newport Beach or Hoag Irvine for the quality of care and the physician collaboration Hoag provides.”Given her history of pain, Dr. Lifur-Bennett suspects she may eventually need surgery.

“I’m quite sure that, at some point, Dr. Ozgur will need to perform something on me. When that time comes, I wouldn’t even consider getting a second opinion,” she said. “I am so very grateful to Dr. Ozgur and I now consider him my neurosurgeon for life!”

To speak with our dedicated spine nurse navigator, please call 949-764-1411. Visit hoag.org/spine for more information.