Bringing Cutting-Edge Care Closer to Home

A new minimally-invasive procedure is helping patients with back pain in rural Alabama.

Steve Sharpe struggled with chronic back pain and faced a common problem. His back pain made car travel uncomfortable, yet the only hospital for him to receive treatment at was an hour and a half away. But then he was referred to Dr. Brad Thomas at Andalusia Health, who changed everything.

Steve became one of the first Andalusia patients to undergo a new procedure called radiofrequency ablation (RFA), which is a minimally-invasive outpatient procedure. The recovery time only takes a few hours, and results typically last 18-24 months, compared to other procedures that may only offer relief for one or two months.

So how does it work? In RFA, radiofrequency energy is transferred through a needle-like probe to locally heat tissue or certain structures in the body. By uncoupling the nerve from the painful joint, it stops sending a pain signal to the brain. Steve says he is grateful that he’s able to receive this cutting-edge care right in his hometown.

“I am able to sleep better and feel more rested when I get up. The pain in my back has diminished significantly.”

Steve Sharpe

According to Dr. Thomas, this type of procedure is performed frequently in most moderately-sized and large cities, but patients in smaller communities may have limited access to cutting edge procedures like RFA. Dr. Thomas was able to advocate for this type of improved care in his rural community by building a great deal of trust both with his colleagues at Andalusia Regional Hospital and with his patients like Steve.

“When there are specialty physicians on staff at hospitals that serve smaller communities, this can lead to fruitful partnerships and ultimately, healthier communities.”

Dr. Brad Thomas

Andalusia Health

Steve can’t say enough good things about both the procedure and the care he received at Andalusia Health. “Dr. Thomas explained everything thoroughly, and he even called me at home twice after the procedure to see how I was doing. I couldn’t ask for a better doctor,” he said.

Stories like Steve’s are exactly why we work to protect federal funding for patient care. Read more about the important role hospitals play in rural America.