Smooth Sailing for New Back

Tri-Valley Herald

Article Last Updated:
Wednesday, July 17, 2002 – 3:06:46 AM MST

Smooth sailing for new back surgery Patients expected to recover quickly

PLEASANTON — Two women underwent a new surgical procedure Tuesday that employs a newly approved genetically engineered protein to fuse vertebrae in the lower back.

The patients — a 41-year-old San Ramon resident and a

closed-circuit television. “It’s all preparation. Once the preparation is done, the implants go in really fast.”

A quick recovery was also anticipated, with the patients expected to go home within 48 hours.

Nearly 200,000 spinal fusions are performed each year to relieve back pain that’s caused by failed discs pressing on nerves. Until now, surgeons had to take bone chips from patients’ hips to spur new bone growth inside the implanted cages. Taking the donor bone from the hip can be more painful and harder to recover from than the spinal surgery itself.

Booth said he expects the new method to remain state of the art for several years.

“The next thing on the horizon is disc replacement,” he said. “We’re lining patients up for a clinical study involving artificial cervical (neck) discs.”

Although artificial discs would give patients a full range of motion, it’s likely they’ll first be approved for use in the neck, rather than the lower back, where stresses on the spine are greater, said Robert Hanvik, a spokesman for Medtronic Sofamor Danek, the company that distributes the new bone-graft protein.

Medtronic markets the protein, called recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein, or rhBMP-2, as the InFUSE bone graft method. Last month Medtronic announced it is in the process of acquiring a company that’s developing an articifial cervical disc, Spinal Dynamics Corp., for $270 million.

Although Hanvik couldn’t confirm Tuesday was the first time the InFUSE method has been performed in California using laparoscopy, he said it was undoubtedly one of the first such operations in the nation since the FDA trials.