New Procedure Uses Gel to Fight Back Pain
September 15, 2006 -- Moving from the gurney to the operating table isn't so bad this time, but sometimes acute back pain stops 33-year-old Jade Gerard from getting up from a chair.
"It always hurts. It's just some days are worse than others," Gerard said.
Years of heavy lifting injured a disc in her spine. Damaged discs are usually repaired or replaced with major surgery, but Jade wasn't ready for that.
"I'm 33 and I'd like to have children and didn't want to burn any bridges really," Gerard said.
So she volunteered for an experimental, minimally-invasive 30-minute outpatient procedure. It requires a centimeter incision and a needle.
Dr. Hyun Bae is the first U.S. surgeon to test a new synthetic gel called the NuCore injectable nucleus. It's injected directly into the natural cushion of the disc.
"It's almost like a cushion in a Nike shoe. Instead of air it's a gel, it's a natural gel and when you start leaking that gel over time you can start to develop low back pain and it's pretty disabling, especially if you're young," Dr. Bae said.
For an FDA trial, Dr. Bae uses a gel made from two cloned natural substances. It's non-toxic and preliminary research shows it's durable.
When doctors inject the polymer it's completely liquid, but within minutes it turns into a spongy gel and that's what goes into the disc.
Jade went home the same day. If the research continues to be positive, Dr. Bae says injectable gels could be a first line treatment for degenerative disc disease. But it has to go through rigorous testing first.
"If it doesn't work and we couldn't relieve the pain at least we'll have better cushion there," Dr. Bae said.
"They're lovely, the doctors I'm with, and if it doesn't work, that's life, I'll just try something else," Gerard said.
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