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OHSU Offers New Minimally Invasive Spinal Surgery

   Portland, Ore.

Procedure limits pain, results in faster recuperation

Surgeons at Oregon Health & Science University are now offering a minimally invasive procedure to treat lower back injuries. The surgery makes use of the Sextant Percutaneous Rod Insertion System, which utilizes metal rods and titanium spinal screws to stabilize the lower spine. A specially designed mechanical device that looks much like a sextant for naval navigation is used to implant the rods and screws. The procedure can be used to treat patients with painful degenerative or arthritic back problems, disc degeneration, recurrent disc herniation, misaligned vertebrae or a spinal fracture due to traumatic injury.

"The major benefit of this system is that it is minimally invasive," said Robert Hart, M.D., assistant professor of orthopaedics and rehabilitation in the OHSU School of Medicine. "Instead of a traditional long midline incision, the screws and rods are placed through three one-inch incisions on either side of the spine. This allows us to limit the injury to overlying ligaments and muscles, which can occur with 'open' spine surgery."

"Spinal technology is improving at lightning speed," said Johnny Delashaw, M.D., professor of neurological surgery in the OHSU School of Medicine who also utilizes the Sextant system. "This new technique should also significantly reduce postoperative pain and length of stay."

OHSU patient Sherrie Devencenzi of Molalla, Ore. underwent the procedure last month following serious car accident in January 2002. The crash left her in a coma for a month. When she awoke, she began a yearlong struggle with back pain.

"Since the surgery, I’ve felt really good," said Devencenzi. "My back really doesn’t hurt at all."

The procedure begins with the insertion of two titanium pedicle screws into the vertebrae of the lower spine. This is done through the assistance of a live-action X-ray machine called a fluoroscope. The stabilization rod is then inserted through a separate incision and attached to the two screw heads via connectors. This provides external stabilization for the degenerative region of the spine, causing minimal loss of range of motion and, it is hoped, reduced back pain for the patient.

Approximately 190,000 people undergo spinal fusion surgery in the United States annually. About 85 percent of the U.S. population shows evidence of disc degeneration by age 50. Overall, disc degeneration affects about 12 million people nationwide.

The Sextant Percutaneous Rod Insertion System was developed by Medtronic Sofamor Danek.

Note: Northwest patients interested in obtaining additional information about the procedure can call 503 494-1143.


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