Tuesday, September 05, 2006

ProDisc-L - an artificial disc replacement

My in-laws both suffer from back problems and each has had lumbar spinal fusions. And, as is the case for many invidiuals who have had this type of surgery, the fusions haven't been completely successful.

Having some back problems of my own, of course, I'm interested in news concerning improvements in surgical approaches to back pain. Well, here's an interesting piece of news.

The U.S. food and drug administration has approved ProDisc-L for use in the United States. ProDisc-L is an artificial disc replacement, and if it turns out to have a high rate of success (the device has already received more than 15 years of clinical followup in Europe), it may come into use as a solid alternative to back fusions.

Whereas natural discs are collagen rings surrounding a fluid filled body, the ProDisc-L is made up of two metal plates that hold a polyethylene dome in place between vertebrae. According to the Texas Back Institute, which performed the first ProDisc-L implantation in 2001, this device has several advantages over back fusions.

Back fusions, 20% of the time, involve followup surgery of one kind or another. And this usually happens about10-15 years after a fusion. Back fusions can also involve a lengthy rehab period. By contrast, this new device will not place extra stress on adjacent discs the way a fusion will and followup surgery is less likely. Also, recovery times are decreased and pain relief is achieved faster. But the greatest advantage may be the fact that disc replacement will not result in lost flexibility and range of motion as is the case with fusions that involve bone grafts and often metal rods and screws.

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