Artificial Discs Forge Ahead

However, from an initial standpoint it is also evident that technical development is far in advance of the psycho-social understanding of the national disease of back pain.

“Patients are impatient and want to be relieved of their pain as quickly as possible,” says Professor Wolf Arnold, senior consultant at the Centre for Orthopaedics, Accident and Restorative Surgery at the SRH-Zentralklinikum Suhl. They are often not prepared to go through the treatment plan prescribed by spine surgeons and “often put pressure on the surgeon to treat them immediately”, says Arnold.

While osteoporosis with its associated spinal fractures is increasingly occupying the time of orthopaedic surgeons, discussion about the right way to treat disc degeneration and disc collapse still goes on. Conservative and surgical options face each other across a divide.

Whether slipped or protruded, the disc is repeatedly blamed as the cause of irritated or trapped nerves. And when it produces pain, it is increasingly being replaced with artificial elements. Experts are forecasting further growth for the disc replacement market.

The dreams of the bio-engineers appear limitless. A whole range of vertebral spacers, from the cervical vertebra down into the sacrum, are now offered by the industry as disc replacements. One trend is becoming clear: a retreat away from segment stiffening with rigid metal implants, which bridge the vertebra, towards functional prostheses. These are designed to link freedom from pain with freedom of movement.

Doctors diagnose an organic reason in only one in five patients presenting with back pain. In many cases however the pain is characterised as non-specific. Probable causes can in these cases be attributed to lack of exercise or excess weight. And what we often forget, but which many studies agree upon, is that around nine out of ten patients with disc damage get better without medical treatment.; Source: Messe Düsseldorf