Managing Back Pain Taking New Direction

Colorado Surgeons, Patients Are Part Of Clinical Trial

Degenerative back disease can be a chronic problem for many Americans. Replacing the diseased disc is now an option for some of these patients.

The Spine Center at the University of Colorado Hospital is taking part in a nationwide clinical trial testing a new model of a replacement disc.

Kathy Hassebrook traveled from Aberdeen, S.D., to take part in this specific clinical trail.

For the past 10 years, she's experienced increasing back pain and what she calls a lack of back structure. She's tried back injections, physical therapy and wearing a back brace. Nothing worked.

"I've had the options given to me to either live with it, which I've done, and when it got to the point that it got so bad that it was affecting different things in my life, there's two surgeries that were recommended," said Hassebrook.

Golfing and bowling have been off limits , but it was a recent trip to Thailand that solidified her decision to have surgery.

"There was an elephant ride I was not on! And, I was afraid of the long flight," said Hassebrook.

Missing that elephant ride was her last straw. She decided to enroll and was accepted into the clinical trial.

Dr. Vikas Patel leads a team of spine surgeons who are testing the newly designed artificial disc.

"This new disc is a third-generation type of disc where they are combining aspects of previous implants that we believe are better. These trials are important in general to make certain when new technologies come out they are thoroughly tested and carefully followed to make sure they are better than what's currently available," said Dr. Patel.

The new disc incorporates added mobility.

"It allows a bit of sliding and translating motion," said Dr. Patel. He said it will act even more like a natural spine disc.

Because Kathy is part of this clinical trial, she can not know if her replacement will be with the new disc or an older version. To her, either disc will be fine.

"The good news is that I get one of the discs and I don't have a fusion surgery scheduled. I either get the one being studied in the trial or one that is already FDA approved," said Hassebrook on the day prior to her surgery.

The minimally invasive surgery to remove the diseased disc and implant the new one took about three hours. Kathy was walking within the first day.

She flew back to Colorado for a seven-week check up. There's no doubt in her mind, she said, the surgery was a success. To prove it, she wore high-heeled boots to her appointment. That was something she could not do until after the surgery.

"I was hopeful, but it's like I stepped back 10 years and it worked," said Hassebrook.

Not knowing what disc was implanted is not even an issue.

"I'm guessing maybe I have the new one, but either way it worked. I'm happy," said Hassebrook.

Kathy's experience will join that of about 300 other patients to determine which disc may help future patients the most.

If this disc is approved by the FDA, it could be available in about three years.

The clinical trial is still accepting new patients.

For more information visit The Spine Center at University of Colorado Hospital