Advances in surgical management of lumbar degenerative disease

Jeff S Silber, D Greg Anderson, Victor M Hayes, Alexander R Vaccaro
Orthopedics 2002, 25 (7): 767-71; quiz 772-3
The past several years have seen many advances in spine technology. Some of these advances have improved the quality of life of patients suffering from disabling low back pain from degenerative disk disease. Traditional fusion procedures are trending toward less invasive approaches with less iatrogenic soft-tissue morbidity. The diversity of bone graft substitutes is increasing with the potential for significant improvements in fusion success with the future introduction of several well tested bone morphogenic proteins to the spinal market. Biologic solutions to modify the natural history of disk degeneration are being investigated. Recently, electrothermal modulation of the posterior annulus fibrosis has been published as a semi-invasive technique to relieve low back pain generated by fissures in the outer annulus and ingrowing nociceptors (intradiskal electrothermal therapy, and intradiskal electrothermal annuloplasty). Initial results are promising, however, prospective randomized studies comparing this technique with conservative therapy are still lacking. The same is true for artificial nucleus pulposus replacement using hydrogel cushions implanted in the intervertebral space after removal of the nucleus pulposus posterior or through an anterior approach. Intervertebral disk prostheses are presently being studied in small prospective patient cohorts. As with all new developments, careful prospective, long-term trials are needed to fully define the role of these technologies in the management of symptomatic lumbar degenerative disk disease.

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