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TODAY news for Thursday, February 26, 2007

Loma Linda University Medical Center news

First Inland Empire surgery to insert artificial cervical disc performed

Surgery to relieve a patient’s neck pain by inserting an artificial disc was performed for the first time in the Inland Empire on December 14 at Loma Linda University Medical Center. Neurosurgeon Walter D. Johnson, MD, associate professor of surgery, performed the procedure at the East Campus Hospital.

As people age, discs in their spinal column may degenerate and result in pain. Since the mid-1950s, cervical (neck) fusion surgery has been performed to alleviate the discomfort, says Dr. Johnson, but it can increase the stress on the surrounding spinal levels. An artificial disc, he says, “can maintain mobility of the neck and hopefully reduce the degeneration above and below the site.”

Artificial cervical disc replacement surgery has been done for the past decade, Dr. Johnson notes, primarily in Europe.

Orthopaedic spine surgeons and neurological surgeons at Loma Linda are currently involved in a two-level artificial disc or arthroplasty trial, he says.

The technique used in artificial disc replacement surgery is nearly identical to that used in fusions, but instead of inserting bone grafts, the artificial discs are placed between the bones, explains Dr. Johnson. The artificial disc is a metal and ceramic composite graft that, he says, “fits very tightly.”

The patient who received the artificial disc was a woman in her mid-30s who was experiencing chronic neck pain that made sleeping and involvement in any type of activity difficult. “She’s doing great,” says Dr. Johnson. “She’s very happy.” Her pain is greatly reduced and she has been able to maintain the mobility of her neck.

By Marilyn Thomsen

TODAY news for Thursday, February 26, 2007