At first, Julie Kinworthy didn’t worry much about her son’s back pain. It’s easy to strain the back, after all, and 10-year-olds can be rambunctious. Besides, everyone gets back pain occasionally.
But then, earlier this year, her son, River, started complaining more regularly. He had a hard time sleeping, and that was starting to affect his life.
Eventually, River, who moved to Bismarck from Alabama two years ago with his parents, was diagnosed with an osteoid osteoma — a tumor on the bone, in his case on the spine.
Osteoid osteomas are benign tumors, meaning they are non-cancerous, but they can case a lot of pain.
Instead of back surgery, one option for treatment, River’s tumor was treated through an interventional radiology procedure in May.
In this procedure, a needle is stuck into the nidus — the center of the tumor. The nidus is then heated until it is gone. This particular procedure is called radio frequency ablation.
Because River’s tumor was close to the aorta, the largest artery in the body, and the spinal cord, Dr. Sean Kalagher, one of the interventional radiologists at St. Alexius Medical Center, had to be very specific with where the needle penetrated.
River was skeptical of the procedure at first.
“I didn’t want to do it at all,” he said.
However, his mother didn’t see any better option.
“I didn’t think we had a choice,” she said. “The choice was either to leave him in pain or do (the procedure).”
River had to stay overnight for observation, but he was ready to leave the next morning. Within two days, his mother said, he was pretty much pain-free and has been since.
Interventional radiology can be used to fight numerous tumors (including cancerous ones), as well as vascular disease, strokes and aneurysms. Procedures also can use cold, chemotherapy and radiation.
Kalagher said that he and Dr. Brent Herbel, also of St. Alexius, are the only two interventional radiologists in western North Dakota who do all those procedures.
Sanford Health in Bismarck does not have any interventional radiologists, although they have doctors who perform some of these procedures.
The specialty area was added to St. Alexius within the last five years.
For many patients, interventional radiology offers a less invasive option for treatment. In River’s case, he would have had to stay in the hospital for two or three days recovering from back surgery.
According to Kalagher, the field has been going more mainstream in recent years, and the technology is getting better.
River’s just happy to be a normal, healthy 10-year-old again.