New surgery for back pain

July 24, 2012 3:20:42 PM PDT
Four out of five people will suffer back pain at some point in their lives. It can be debilitating and life altering. Now, a new procedure can ease the pain faster than ever before.

He was a surfer, a rodeo rider and a big game hunter but when back pain struck, Jeff Pellisier was desperate for relief.

"I remember I was on the strongest opium patch you can have," he said.

So he tried a new surgery.

"I was not ready to give up any activities, much less all of them at age 50," Pellisier said.

His problem along with a million others who suffer from lower back pain in the sacro-iliac or S-I joint.

"It's a really strong joint that keeps us standing," Dr. Neel Anand, director of Spine Trauma Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery at Cedars-Sinai Spine Center in Los Angeles, said.

Anand is one of the first to perform a minimally invasive procedure that uses titanium implants bolted into the pelvis to stabilize the joint.

"In the past we used to open up and go down. Today we have three pins through a small incision of about an inch," he said.

Another difference, recovery time. For traditional fusion surgery it's 6 months, for the minimally invasive procedure it's two weeks. In fact with the new technique patients can go home the next day.

"We basically put in three pins right through the pelvis and lock it into place," he said.

The pins are covered with a plasma spray to help the bone grow around and into the implant for more stability. The day after surgery, jeff was up and walking.

One year out from his operation and he's moving on to more adventurous things.

"I've been doing some surfing and some dog sledding," Pellisier said.

The implants are not a first line of defense for s-i joint sufferers. First steroid shots are used, then radio frequency ablation then the surgery. The implants will most likely last for life.

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