Artificial Disc Offers Genuine Relief
MADISON - Joel Shelby is just happy to be able to move normally again. In 2001, a car ran a red light, rupturing both Shelby's truck and a disc in his neck, as well as pinching several nerves in his spinal cord. Even after surgery to repair his damaged disc, Shelby was still struggling: He lost the feeling and strength in his right shoulder.
"I couldn't hold a gallon of milk, much less operate my painting business," recalls Shelby, who was 32 when the accident occurred.
Today, he's able to work and move around, thanks to a groundbreaking spinal surgical technique that’s now generally available to patients at University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics. Shelby is just one of a handful of patients who have benefited from the PRESTIGE artificial cervical disc system.
Three UW Health spinal surgeons - Thomas Zdeblick, MD, the head of orthopedic surgery at UW Hospital and Clinics, Paul Anderson, MD and Greg Trost, MD - were key players in the original U.S. Food and Drug Administration trial that tested the efficacy of the PRESTIGE discs in 2003. Last month, the FDA gave final approval for the discs to be used in standard practice. The surgery is effective for patients who have suffered a spinal injury, as well as those who suffer from degenerative spinal conditions.
For orthopedic surgeons, the artificial disc, a device comprised of two small titanium discs attached to a core of polyurethane rubber, represents a major advance. "We've been able to take a procedure we've been using for the last 40 years and replace it with something more effective," says Dr Zdeblick. "Patients who undergo this procedure are consistently reporting major improvement in their quality of life."
In the past, physicians would have treated patients with ruptured discs or spinal nerve impingements with a spinal fusion, a procedure in which the surgeon removes the damaged disc and fuses two vertebrae together. A spinal fusion can relieve a patient's disc pain, but it also robs them of mobility, and places additional stress on surrounding vertebrae.
Not only is the recovery time for the surgery lengthy - sometimes as long as 12 months - but many fusion patients end up returning for treatment within a few years after other vertebrae have broken down. Artificial discs offer patients a quicker recovery time and a fuller range of mobility.
"When you get your neck fixed, you want to be able to turn and look up and down," says Shelby. "And now I can."
He's also found that he can do everything he could before the accident, pain-free. This fall, he took his young daughter to a corn maze, and walked around carrying her on his shoulders.
"I couldn't be happier with the results of my surgery."
Date Published: 02/29/2008
News tag(s): ortho