Survey Shows Strong Demand for Artificial Discs

Originally Published MDDI October 2004NEWSTRENDSSurvey Shows Strong Demand for Artificial DiscsMaria Fontanazza

October 1, 2004

2 Min Read
Survey Shows Strong Demand for Artificial Discs

Originally Published MDDI October 2004


Survey Shows Strong Demand for Artificial Discs

Maria Fontanazza

Artificial disc replacement may become the procedure of choice for back pain sufferers, according to a recent poll conducted by The Web site surveyed more than 450 candidates for spinal fusion surgery, and nearly half of them said that they would delay the procedure in the hopes of having artificial disc surgery. The interest comes despite the technology not yet being available i pn the U.S. market and despite doctors' warnings that it's not appropriate for everyone with a spinal problem.

“We thought the poll results were astounding,” says Peter Ullrich, Medical Director of NeuroSpine Center of Wisconsin (Appleton, WI) and medical director of “There's pent-up demand for the treatment of spinal conditions that hasn't been met with current technology. This is the first new technology we've had in many years that will soon become available.”

One quarter of the candidates surveyed opted for spinal fusion, while the remaining quarter is still considering the benefits and drawbacks of both procedures.

Ullrich speculates that the Charite artificial disc, made by Johnson & Johnson's DePuy Spine Inc. (Raynham, MA), will receive FDA approval by the end of this year. Since its clinical trial was completed, surgeons have been performing artificial disc surgery at approved sites around the country. The Charite disc uses two titanium endplates and a sliding polyethylene core. The disc allows a degree of rotation but is not a shock absorber.

The most significant quality of the discs is that they imitate the spine's natural movement, which may lower the deterioration of adjacent spine levels. The patient recovery period is also shorter, because there's less healing required, says Ullrich.

Ullrich stresses that the ideal candidate for artificial disc surgery must have severe degenerative disc disease at the lowest levels of the spine. Degenerative disc disease occurs as a result of trauma, infection, or aging, and it can affect any part of the spine. The long-term hope is that the artificial discs will work best at the lowest spine segments, says Ullrich.

Spinal fusion surgery decreases pain at a vertebral segment by fusing one or more of the vertebrae together. However, the vertebrae don't always fuse together properly. The procedure can also increase the amount of stress on adjacent levels of the spine, leading to further back surgery.

Other companies developing artificial discs include SpineCore (Summit, NJ), recently acquired by Stryker Corp. (Kalamazoo, MI); Medtronic Sofamor Danek Inc. (Richmond, VA); and Synthes Inc. (Oberdorf, Switzerland).

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