Medical Breakthroughs

Reduces Back Pain, Maintains Motion 

New artificial disc surgery, intended to eliminate chronic lower back pain, is now available at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center.

The CHARITÉ artificial disc, recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is regarded as a major breakthrough in the treatment of severe back pain due to degenerative spinal disease.

Discs are the soft pads that separate the bony segments of the spine, acting as “shock absorbers.” Over time discs tend to wear out and the nerves can become compressed, causing considerable pain.

According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, 65 million Americans experience lower back pain each year. And, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, four out of five adults will experience significant low back pain sometime during their lives. Degenerative disc disease affects more than 12 million people. As a result, more than 200,000 lumbar spinal fusion surgeries are performed each year in the United States - making it a common treatment for degenerative disc disease.

Instead of removing a damaged disc and then fusing the spine with bone grafts and metal screws, surgeons can now replace the damaged disc with an artificial disc, which is made of two metal endplates and a movable plastic center.

In the procedure, specially trained neurosurgeons or orthopedic surgeons are assisted by vascular approach surgeons who make an incision in the abdomen and carefully navigate blood vessels and internal organs to provide access to the spine. The neurosurgeons or orthopedists then use special instruments to remove the damaged disc and create a space between two vertebrae for the implantation of the artificial disc.

“This artificial disc preserves a patient's range of motion, which had been restricted by traditional spinal fusion surgery,” explains Stephan Lange, M.D., who performed the first disc replacement surgery at Saint Francis with Howard Lantner, M.D., neurosurgeon, assisted by Steven Ruby, M.D., vascular surgeon.

According to Dr. Lanter, the artificial disc is similar in function to artificial knee and hip implants that have been in use for years. “This is the greatest breakthrough in spinal disc surgery in the last 25 years,” he said.

For more information on the CHARITÉ artificial disc, call 1-877-ST FRANCIS (1-877-783-7262).