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New treatment for lower back pain
by Megan Fink
Close to 64 million people in the United States are living with chronic
back and leg pain, and that figure is expected to rise as the
baby-boomer generation ages.
A new spinal implant used in some back surgeries at MUSC could result
in increased mobility, fewer complications and a speedier recovery than
the traditional method of treatment.
MUSC is one of 20 sites selected to participate in the second phase of
a national clinical study, which will compare the artificial joint
called the Total Facet Arthroplasty System (TFAS) with the more
conventional spinal fusion surgery to treat moderate-to-severe spinal
stenosis, a progressive disease constricting the spine. Because of the
study’s success during its initial phase, the Food and Drug
Administration has approved the expansion.
The spinal implant stabilizes the spine while enabling natural motion
after removal of bone and tissue, which had been bearing pressure on
nerves. Unlike fusion, the spinal disc remains intact. TFAS takes the
place of the facet joint in the lumbar region of the back. Neurosurgeon
Bruce Frankel, M.D., is the chief investigator for TFAS at MUSC.
Frankel, who specializes in minimally invasive and complex spinal
surgeries, has performed three TFAS procedures to date. “The patients
are doing very well after implantation of this innovative new device,”
One of the patients is retired Army 1st Sgt. Weltner Broome. Broome has
dealt with chronic back pain for the last 10 years and wanted a
long-term solution to his ailment related to his disc disease located
between spinal vertebra levels L4 and L5. The 74-year-old Seneca native
received the implant in August and reports his recovery has been
“great.” He has even returned to the fairway to play golf with friends.
“I’m at a point in recovery, just after three months, that would take
fusion patients 12 months to reach,” said Broome. “I still have some
sciatic pain, but it’s nowhere close to what it was prior to surgery.
And there’s no pain at the surgical site.”
MUSC is still accepting patients into its TFAS clinical trial. Some
stipulations to participate include the presence of leg and/or back
pain for at least six months; and previous participation in various
physical therapy programs, which failed to quell the pain.
The first five patients who meet study requirements will receive the
implant. After the fifth procedure, patients will be randomly assigned
to receive either the TFAS device or a standard fusion of the spine;
the latter being the control, or unchanging, portion of the study.
For information on the replacement device, or to speak with an MUSC
doctor involved in the study, contact Bonnie Muntz-Pope, R.N., study
coordinator, Department of Neurosurgery/Research at firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, Jan. 18, 2008
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