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New Hope for Back Pain

Spinal disc implants being tested around country

THURSDAY, Aug. 8, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- People with crippling back pain may soon have another choice for relief.

A stainless steel and plastic artificial back disc is being tested by University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center orthopedic surgeons.

The disc, called Prodiscr, is meant to replace back discs damaged by degeneration, bulging, herniation or thinning. Spinal fusion surgery is the current treatment for the condition.

The UCSF Medical Center's randomized clinical trial will enroll about 510 people over four years. The goal of the study is to compare the safety and effectiveness of the implant to spinal fusion surgery.

In spinal fusion, surgeons attach rods and screws to spinal bones to hold them until they heal together.

However, spinal fusion techniques and results are controversial, says Dr. David S Bradford, a professor of orthopedic surgery and lead investigator of the UCSF study.

There's variation from patient to patient in the ability of the bone to heal or fuse. Spinal fusion can also cause stiffness and decreased motion, and it causes more stress to be transferred to other areas of the spine, he says.

"Most important, fusion is not targeted toward restoration of normal structure and function. This prospective, randomized study will tell us if the Prodiscr can eliminate back pain by preserving or restoring motion in the spine, restoring the structure and height of damaged vertebrae, and restoring the normal biomechanics of the lumbar spine," Bradford says.

The Prodiscr was developed in France in the late 1980s. It has two porous cobalt-chrome plates, a polyethylene ball-bearing cone, and stabilizing keels that integrate into adjacent vertabrae.

UCSF is one of 13 centers currently evaluating the Prodiscr.

More information

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has more on spinal fusion surgery.

SOURCE: University of California at San Francisco, news release, July 2002
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