Health Alert: Alternative to spinal fusion

NATIONAL - Nearly 400,000 Americans suffer from a painful condition called spinal stenosis. It typically strikes those over 50 and causes burning, tingling, numbness and weakness in the legs. A new, experimental device is showing promise to many people suffering with this debilitating condition.

The basic task of driving used to cause excruciating pain for Ron Kaipus. "Basically I had the pains running down the backs of my legs and when I would try and get up out of a chair, sometimes I couldn't even get up."

Visits to the chiropractor, physical therapy, even injections didn't help.

The diagnosis was spinal stenosis, a painful leg and back condition caused by arthritis of the spine. Spinal fusion is the standard treatment. Surgeons remove the spinal disc and fuse the vertebrae with screws and rods.

But there's a downside. Dr. Barton Sachs explains, "From the time that this is put in, there is no further movement of this part of the spine. So the spine will move above here, but it does not move down in this section where it's fused."

Ron decided to gamble. He enrolled in a study comparing the traditional spinal fusion treatment to a new device called a Total Facet Arthroplasty System, or "T-FAS". With T-FAS, surgeons remove the bone that compresses the nerves, but leave the disc intact. This gives patients more mobility. Dr. Sachs says, "Rather than moving bone around and performing a fusion, we put this fixation system, again, into the spine and the fixation system is built as an artificial facet joint."

Ron's gamble paid off. He received the new T-FAS device and recovered in about half the amount of time of standard spinal fusion.

The T-FAS implant is an experimental device and is not FDA-approved. It's also not appropriate for people with metabolic bone disease or osteoporosis.

For more information on the Total Facet Arthroplasty system study, call 1-425-869-2100.

Reported by Dawndy Mercer

Posted by Chantelle Janelle