Spinal Surgery Restores a Woman’s Vision


Even though it was unintended, spinal surgery may have resulted in a Florida woman regaining her vision.

Mary Ann Franco of Okeechobee, Florida, was rendered blind from a car accident in 1995. In early 2016, Ms. Franco underwent surgery to relieve severe neck pain after a fall at home. After the spinal surgery (and much to everyone’s surprise) her vision was restored after 20 years of blindness.

Perhaps even more astounding, Mrs. Franco was colorblind prior to her accident in 1995. Not only did the unrelated spinal surgery cure her blindness, it also cured her colorblindness.

While Mrs. Franco attributes her newly restored vision to divine intervention, her doctors are looking for an earthly explanation. On its face, there is no real reason why a spinal surgery to relieve neck pain would cure blindness, much less colorblindness.

A unique vision-correction surgery?

The surgeons who performed her most recent spinal surgery believe that they must have affected an artery that supplies blood to a specific area of the brain. They theorize that prior to the spinal surgery, an area of the brain that recognizes and interprets vision was not getting sufficient blood flow. This artery was perhaps “kinked” or “pinched,” which restricted blood flow just enough that no brain tissue died, but to a degree than the brain tissue could not function properly.

Vision is more than just the Eyes

We think of our eyes as being responsible for sight, and our retinas do indeed make sight possible. However, vision requires that the retinas transduce visual information into nerve signals, and those signals are carried by the optic nerves to the visual cortex in the brain.

Mrs. Franco may have had a partial or complete interruption of blood flow to that area of the brain caused by her accident in 1995. The hypothesis for the return of her vision simply indicates that the second surgery “straightened out” an artery responsible for supplying the visual cortex with an adequate blood supply.

Color vision restoration is the most shocking outcome of Spinal Surgery

The restoration of Ms. Franco’s color vision is a little more difficult to explain. Most color vision is due to the presence of color receptors in the retina, called cones. Most people with color blindness lack a certain type of color receptor. While color vision is also transmitted via nerve signals and could be affected by poor blood flow to these brain regions, the chance of that happening is incredibly low.

Yet it happened in Ms. Franco, nonetheless. While the spinal surgery was intended to relieve her severe neck pain, Ms. Franco is actually going home with the gift of sight.

If You Are Suffering from Back or Neck Pain, Call Jersey Spine Associates

Dr. Ponnappan is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon who is fellowship trained in advanced techniques and complex spinal surgery of the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine. You don’t need to suffer, Call Jersey Spine Associates Today!