Winter 2005 Issue

Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates Implants The First Lumbar Artificial Disc In The Carolinas

The Charité artificial disc is an alternative to spinal fusion and allows patients to maintain their range of motion.Click here to view an animation
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On Thursday, November 18, 2004, neurosurgeon Dom Coric, M.D., of Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates, performed the first implantation of a lumbar artificial disc in North or South Carolina. The Charité™ Artificial Disc is the first device of its kind to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The artificial disc, which is used to replace a damaged or worn spinal disc, is designed to be an alternative to spinal fusion surgery.

“FDA approval of this artificial disc was a watershed moment in the field of spine surgery,” said Dr. Coric. “This is one of the biggest advancements for treating degenerative disc disease and lower back pain in the past 20 years.”

Lumbar spinal fusion surgery, which is currently a common surgical treatment for low back pain or degenerative disc disease, is often effective in reducing pain, but limits a patient’s range of motion and may transfer extra stress to other discs . More than 200,000 of these procedures are performed each year in the U.S.

“The major benefits of the artificial disc over spinal fusion is that it not only allows a patient to maintain a larger range of motion, it decreases the stress placed on the discs above and below it,” said Dr. Coric.

Patients who receive an artificial disc can also expect a recovery period that is shorter than with spinal fusion surgery. With a fusion procedure, patients generally require a three-to-four-day hospital stay and usually cannot return to work for three to six months. Generally, a two-to-three-day hospital stay is required after artificial disc surgery, and patients may return to work in only one to three months.

The Artificial Disc Procedure
During the artificial disc procedure performed on November 18, assisting General Surgeon Thomas Novick, M.D., approached the spine through an incision in the abdomen and carefully moved internal organs and blood vessels to provide access to the spine. Then Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates neurosurgeons Dr. Coric and Rick Finger, M.D., used special tools to remove the damaged disc and create a space between two vertebrae for the implantation of the artificial disc. The procedure took about two hours.

By contrast, in spinal fusion surgery, a damaged spinal disc is removed and vertebrae are joined together using bone grafts and metal screws and/or cages so that motion can no longer occur in this area of the spine. Patients usually have to wear a brace for one to three months after surgery.

Who Is A Potential Candidate?
If a patient suffers from degenerative disc disease in the lumbar spine, and has not received adequate relief after at least six months of conservative treatment (pain medication, a back brace, or physical therapy), he or she may be a candidate for artificial disc replacement.

The Charité artificial disc is an alternative to spinal fusion for patients who have one diseased disc between L4 and L5 or between L5 and S1. Disc deterioration is determined by history and X-rays or other diagnostic imaging. Patients who have had some types of minor lower back surgery may still receive an artificial disc.

Who Is Not A Candidate?
Artificial disc surgery is not for everyone who experiences lower back pain. A patient’s occupation, activity, weight, condition of other levels of the spine, pregnancy, and allergies may influence whether artificial disc surgery is an option. An artificial disc should not be used if:

• the patient has either an infection throughout the body or localized to the spine; or,
• the patient has disc deterioration or instability at more than one spinal level; or,
• if the patient has poor bone quality (osteoporosis or osteopenia).

A Regional Training Site
Two Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates surgeons, Dr. Coric and Dr. Finger, will provide training to other surgeons from around the country for the lumbar artificial disc at Carolinas Medical Center. This is the only training site in the Carolinas and one of 50 nationwide.

For more information about the Charité artificial disc and spine services available at our practice, call 704-376-1605

Image provided courtesy of DePuy Spine, Inc. Copyright (c) 2004. CHARITE(tm) Artificial Disc is a trademark of DePuy Spine, Inc. 3D imaging provided by Pixel Light Digital Media, Inc.

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