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Format: 04/16/2014
Format: 04/16/2014


ABC-7 News, Denver: Ending back pain by closing hole after discectomy

Monday, October 19th, 2009

Every year, U.S. surgeons perform more than half a million back surgeries to relieve disc-related pain. As many as 30 percent of those patients have recurrent problems.

Orthopedic specialists are now testing a new procedure that might prevent patients from needing a second surgery.

A herniated, or damaged disc in Joann Seaman's lower back was pushing against a nerve. She was not able to sit, walk or bend without feeling intense pain.

"By the time I came home every day, I was close to tears, and the only comfortable position I could find would be laying flat on the floor," Seaman said.

Surgery was the best option. Typically, doctors remove the portion of the disc causing the pain, but it leaves a hole behind. This can lead to another injury.

"At least 10 percent of the patients who have a discectomy will have a re-herniation of that disc," said Dr. Eugene Bonaroti, a neurosurgeon at West Penn Allegheny Health System in Pittsburgh.

Doctors are now testing a device designed to close the gap for good. The new repair system acts like a mini-sewing machine. The tip of the device is inserted into the disc wall. It anchors sutures on either side of the hole and pulls it shut for patients. That means reducing the risk of a second surgery.

"For him to give me the hope that this could keep it from re-herniating, I was excited about that," Seaman said.

West Penn Allegheny Health System
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