By Tim Bonfield
Enquirer staff writer
For some Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky residents suffering from relentless lower back troubles, there is an emerging alternative to spinal fusion surgery - implanting an artificial disc.
In fact, two Cincinnati surgeons will be among about 50 nationwide who will begin training doctors nationwide and worldwide next month on how to install an artificial disc that won U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval Tuesday.
The Charite artificial disc, made by DePuy Spine Inc. of Raynham, Mass., is the first device of its kind to be approved for general use in the United States. The device has been used for more than a decade in Europe.
Drs. John Roberts and Alfred Kahn of the Cincinnati Spine Institute will be teaching other doctors about the procedure at Ethicon Endo-Surgery's surgical training facility in Blue Ash.
"We're going to have people from all over the world flying here for this," Roberts said. "We were selected as trainers for this part of the country because this device requires an approach through the abdomen, and we have a lot of experience with that approach."
The operation is intended to ease the pain of spinal disc damage while maintaining more range of motion. The disc, a plastic core sandwiched by two metal plates, is intended as an alternative to spinal fusion surgery.
Millions of Americans suffer lower back pain and more than 200,000 people have damage severe enough to undergo spinal fusion surgery each year, including more than 1,000 people in this region. However, only about 10 percent of people who qualify for spinal fusion surgery will qualify for the artificial disc, Roberts said.
Among the limitations:
Only one disc can be damaged.
The damage has to involve one of the two lowest vertebrae.
There cannot be too much arthritis damage to joints that connect the vertebrae.
While the DePuy device is the first to reach market, other spinal disc replacement devices are being studied. In Cincinnati, the Mayfield Clinic began clinical trials earlier this month of the FlexiCore artificial disc, made by Stryker Corp. of Kalamazoo, Mich. Three local patients have participated.
The Associated Press contributed. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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