Treating ruptured discs

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
April 8, 2008 3:48:39 PM PDT
Ruptured discs cause immense pain for thousands of people.With a new technique that doctors are using to treat the problem, Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg.

On many surgeries for ruptured or herniated discs, doctors can remove the gel-like material that has slipped out of the disc that sits between two spinal bones. But about 15 percent of the time, more material can slip out and can cause pain again. Now, there may be a solution to prevent a second herniation.

"I like to do crazy things, like whitewater rafting, jumping out of airplanes," Michelle Roche said.

Years of adventure took a toll on Roche's back.

"The pain was extremely sharp, and I just could not get comfortable," she said. "The pain did not go away no matter what I did."

Doctors suggested surgery to remove the herniated part of the disc.

"Patients would always ask, 'If you take out the disc, what are you going to put back in there?'" Dr. Richard Guyer said. "Well, we never really had a very good answer."

Before, the hole where part of the disc was removed was left open, leaving patients vulnerable for another rupture. Now, surgeons are studying whether a new set of tools hold the answer to closing that gap.

"Using very tiny instruments, you are able to pass the sutures into the ring of the disc, that then allows you to criss-cross them and closes the tissue to act as a seal," Dr. Guyer said. "And then, hopefully, the scar tissue builds up then heals that defect."

Michelle and Dr. Guyer are part of a two-year trial of this technique, known as the X-close tissue repair system.

"The main thing is to determine whether or not we are lessening the recurrence rate," Dr. Guyer said. "And hopefully we are, because when people have a recurrence, it usually comes out the previous hole that was there."

An MRI charts Michelle's progress. Seven months after surgery, so far so good.

"Now, I don't think twice about what I am going to do," Michelle said. "I just do it."

And she is having a ball once again.

Dr. Guyer believes most patients who have a herniated disc are a good candidate for the technique, unless they have already had surgery.

For more information, visit

For information on on-going research, contact Jane Rahmani, research coordinator for SpineMark, at