New treatment for back pain

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
April 30, 2008 6:33:18 PM PDT
Millions of Americans suffer from back pain. Now, there is a new treatment that's bringing relief.Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg.

Ten million adults suffer from chronic back pain and one million seek a surgical fix every year. Now, there's one treatment that's an attempt to fix the problem with a shorter surgery and a more rapid recovery.

Lynn Haverty is a woman thrilled to do what most of us hate - laundry. She couldn't do it, or even walk, just a few months ago.

"As far as walking, short distances and always in pain," Haverty said. "And as far as stairs go, I was crawling up the stairs."

Back surgery and other treatments didn't lessen the pain, but?

"I was always hopeful there was something around the corner that would fix it," Haverty said.

She found relief thanks to a doctor at Georgetown University Hospital and a new minimally invasive technique that does the same thing as traditional open back surgery.

"It is exciting," said Dr. Faheem Sandhu, director of minimally invasive spinal surgery at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC.

Extreme lateral interbody fusion, or XLIF, involves a small incision in the patient's side over the hurt disc. X-rays guide tubes down to the spine using special tools to avoid muscle and tissue damage. They're locked into place with a flexible arm so the doctor can fuse the spine.

"It's really opened up the ability for me to do complex spinal surgery in a minimally invasive manner," Dr. Sandhu said.

The recovery time is four to six weeks instead of six to 12 months, and patients are often walking within a few days. Haverty's spine looked like an upside down question mark, but this procedure straightened it out.

"Not long afterwards, I just could get around," she said. "I do laundry. I can stand up in the kitchen and cook."

XLIF is a surgical option for many that suffer from lower back problems, but not all. The procedure is only an option for the lumbar region of the spine, which is made up of the lower five or six vertebrae of the spine.


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