Newswise — MAYWOOD, IL –  Mary Pat Sieck hurt all the time from severe scoliosis, and the curvature of her spine kept getting worse.

She leaned to the right when she stood, couldn't stand for more than five minutes without using a wall or chair for support and needed a cane to walk. Without surgery, doctors told Ms. Sieck, she would end up in a wheelchair.

Loyola Medicine spine surgeon Russ Nockels, MD, corrected Ms. Sieck's scoliosis with a major surgery performed over two days.

With her first step after surgery, Ms. Sieck said the severe pain was gone. "And it has never come back," she said.

Ms. Sieck had scoliosis (sideways curvature of the spine), which caused her to lean to the right, and sagittal imbalance (front to back imbalance), which caused her head to be positioned in front of her feet.

Surgeries to correct such conditions typically take 10 to 14 hours. First, Dr. Nockels relieves the pressure on the spinal cord (spinal stenosis) that is pinching the nerves and causing pain. Then he corrects the spinal deformity by securing the vertebrae to two custom-made, gently curved rods that run up and down the spine.

Because it's best not to keep a patient on the operating table in the same position for more than about seven hours, the surgery is performed over two days. While patients may be apprehensive about the length and extent of the surgery, Dr. Nockels said smaller operations are less successful and may lead to more surgeries.

Loyola's spinal deformity and scoliosis clinic provides the type of advanced subspecialty care available only at academic medical centers. Dr. Nockels is among the most experienced scoliosis surgeons in the nation.

"There is something so calming about his manner," Ms. Sieck said. "I trusted him. I think Dr. Nockels may be the kindest surgeon I have ever met."