Success story of another athlete from abroad – Laser Spinal Surgery (PLDD) in Croatia

event 15.01.2023.

Five months ago, Mr. J. V., an American living in Portugal, sent us an inquiry through our international patient center describing his back problems. Joe, a very active 39-year-old, avid surfer and wine expert, had been suffering since 1996.

The first MRI done in 2003 showed a 3 mm bulging L5-S1 disc. With his significantly large canal space, surgery was not necessary. However, in the last few years, his problems continued to get worse. Considering he is very athletic and a semi-professional sportsperson for many years, this was not acceptable to him. His spinal, low-back, and leg problems were significantly limiting his everyday activities.

In 2009 he visited Prof. Daniel S. J. Choy, MD, founder and director of the Spine Laser Center of New York, the inventor of the laser spinal surgery technique called PLDD (Percutaneous Laser Disc Decompression). Dr. Choy’s professional opinion was that Mr. Veselko’s case required two-level laser spine surgery. He tried everything from chiropractors, physiotherapy, pilates, yoga, etc. Neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons in Portugal did not advise surgery because his case was not ideal for traditional open surgery performed there.

Then, in June 2010 he found out about us and emailed us requesting a second neurosurgical opinion from Dr. Robert Saftić. Based on his CAT scan and patient history form, the conclusion was that the patient’s problems were caused by degenerative disc disease at two levels, L4-L5 and L5-S1. His decision was to come to Croatia ASAP, and, of course, we helped him by scheduling his surgery in just two weeks’ time. So, Wednesday, July 7th was his surgery date. The patient adviser and advocate met him at Zagreb Airport and escorted him to Hotel Antunović. On the second day, they went sightseeing, had lunch, and tried some Croatian wines (in very small amounts) to psychologically prepare Mr. Veselko for his surgery scheduled the following day. The 7th of July arrived quickly, and Mr. Veselko was fully ready for laser spine surgery. Although he was scared of needles, he had no problems prior to or during the surgery.  To his surprise and disbelief, the surgery took just 45 minutes, and the two discs were completed by laser. The surgery was performed by our spinal neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Saftić.

Now, five months later, Mr. Veselko has fully recovered and returned to his everyday life. His future health depends on his lifestyle, which is why he was instructed to stay in shape and keep doing exercises to maintain his back in optimal condition.

Read Mr. Veselko’s letter to us below:

I had suffered from lower back pain for about 16 years, since an initial work accident where I had not bent my knees properly when picking up a small object from the floor. I’ve always been quite active and athletic. I had lived with pain for so many years.  I had gotten to the point where my quality of life was severely compromised, and I was just tired of living with constant lower back pain, soreness, occasional numbness, and leg weakness. Over the years, I tried everything and spent a fortune on chiropractic visits, yoga-type exercises, etc. Everything only seemed to make my situation worse. I had looked around the world for a solution, with a focus on finding the most minimally invasive techniques. I’d seen firsthand my close friends experiencing issues after getting open back surgery for disc problems. There was no way I was going down that road. I found out about the PLDD laser surgery technique invented by Dr. Choy in New York. I personally visited him but could not afford the surgery in the USA. I began looking elsewhere. I first looked to India, as I found quite a bit of information about back surgery performed there. I sent them my first scans, but they were never delivered via mail. I sent another set of scans, after which followed the horrifying suggestion that I needed major surgery with implants. This did not coincide with any of the prior professional opinions I already received from individuals in the US or Portugal, where I currently reside. They also could not prove that they actually performed the PLDD surgery. There seemed to be too many unknowns and it was too far of a journey for me to consider it a viable option. So, India was out of the question. Then, to my surprise, I found out that the PLDD technique was being performed in Croatia. I researched Dr. Saftić’s background and found his experience to be of a solid international foundation. His opinion as well was equal to what Dr. Choy suggested. I contacted a representative in charge of taking care of all international patients. He spoke English quite well and was extremely professional throughout the entire process. Everything was quite simple from start to finish. I arrived in Zagreb, where he picked me up from the airport and took me to Hotel Antunović, which is without a doubt one of the nicest hotels in Zagreb. The food was great as well, with a variety of options. I felt more like I was on vacation than anything. Well, to make the long story short…

The clinic was new, modern, and absolutely first-class. It was as good if not better than anything that I’ve seen in the States or Western Europe where I live. The surgery was short and I was out the next day. I followed all of their instructions by wearing a back brace and went forward with the exercise program given to me in the short weeks to follow. I was literally feeling great in about 10 days. After two and half months, I ended up going to North Sumatra on a great surf trip for 12 days, where I surfed for 6 hours every day. I experienced zero back pain and was surfing like a kid again. I highly recommend taking a look at Croatia, as Dr. Saftić is very qualified in all aspects of back surgery. I feel confident that I made the right decision now that more than 5 months have passed. I urge anyone to reach out to me personally if they have any questions concerning their problems.

J. V. (contact the clinic for my email)