DALLAS, Texas (KFSN) -- Spondylolisthesis is a stress fracture that happens to young athletes who put a lot of stress on the lower back. It can be debilitating when one vertebra slips onto another. But less invasive back surgery and more precise tools are making surgery safer and improving outcomes.
Twelve-year-old Kaleigh Clemons practiced gymnastics beginning at age five.
"I could do back handsprings all over the yard. I practiced all the time," Kaleigh said.
She developed severe back pain, and was finally diagnosed with spondylolisthesis, a spinal deformity, made worse by extreme physical stress.
"She was looking at a very difficult life ahead of her with back pain and leg pain if this was left untreated," said Isador Lieberman, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon at the President Texas Back Institute.
Kaleigh's father Mark Clemons said, "He looked me square in the face and he told me, she's going to dance again."
Now just four months after surgery, Kaleigh is dancing, regaining her balance and lifting weights, and she is two and a half inches taller.
"This is the ultrasonic bone scalpel, as one of my former fellows said, this is the game changer," said Dr. Lieberman.
The ultrasonic bonescalpel vibrates 22 thousand, 500 times per second to precisely cut bone, but the tip is not sharp, and bounces off soft tissues. It is a safer, less intrusive way of doing spinal surgery.
"I can't believe where I am now," Kaleigh said.
"In January we were facing a wheelchair, diapers, all those things that go through our heads, to now where she's riding her bike," said Cassey Clemons, Kaleigh's mother.
Dr. Lieberman says when Kaleigh's back heals completely, she would be able to resume gymnastics, if she wanted.
Health Watch: BoneScalpel for Spondylolisthesis