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Is Back Surgery Right For You?

(ARA) - Almost everyone will experience back pain at some point in life, and 50 percent of people will have recurrent back pain within one year. Although the majority of back problems are temporary and usually improve with adequate rest, minor physical adjustments or pain medication, an increasing number of back pain sufferers are turning to surgical procedures for a permanent solution to treat their condition. In fact, more than 190,000 Americans are expected to undergo spinal fusion surgery this year to ease back pain that has not responded to other therapies.

If you are experiencing severe back pain, you should see your doctor for a physical exam. Based on that exam, a physician may refer you to a spine specialist, or an orthopedic or neurological surgeon -- all of whom are specially trained to perform back surgery.

Spinal fusions are the most common surgical procedures for patients suffering from back and/or leg pain caused by damaged discs in the spine. As the body ages, the discs in the spine dehydrate or dry out, and lose their ability to act as shock absorbers between the vertebrae. This condition is so common that by the age of 50, 85 percent of the population will show evidence of disc degeneration. Although many people with degenerative discs never experience problems, in some cases, surgery is required to relieve pain resulting from damaged or ruptured discs that are causing vertebrae to put pressure on nearby nerves or spinal cord.

Traditionally, spinal fusions required two separate surgeries -- one to collect bone chips from the patients hip and another to implant them into the space between the vertebrae after the damaged disc is removed. The bone chips help the body grow new bone to connect or fuse the two vertebrae. However, the FDA recently approved a new genetically engineered protein, called INFUSE Bone Graft, that induces the body to grow bone and fuse the spine together, without using bone chips. This new product eliminates the second surgery.

Ryan Seckman is one spinal fusion patient who has benefited from this new procedure. Ryan is a 30-year-old Phoenix husband and father of two, who tried a variety of treatments to ease his low back pain before consulting with his physician and making the decision to permanently correct his condition with surgery. His back pain began as a mild ache and eventually progressed to a sharp, shooting pain that radiated down his leg and caused numbness on one side of his body. He initially saw a chiropractor, who conducted a series of adjustments and prescribed over-the-counter pain medication, ice and rest.

When the pain did not improve, Ryan was referred to a neurological physician, who recommended epidural steroid injections, or potent anti-inflammatory medications delivered into the spinal canal to reduce pain and inflammation. Ryan had three injections over the course of several months and, although the pain was temporarily relieved, it returned again and was worse than before. Ryans neurological surgeon performed an MRI and suggested that Ryan wear a back brace to see if the additional support for his spine would alleviate the pain -- the brace would determine whether Ryan was a candidate for surgery.

The brace significantly helped to relieve the pain, and Ryans physician recommended that he have spinal fusion surgery. Since he had exhausted all other non-invasive treatment options for his condition and achieved little-to-no relief, Ryan agreed to undergo the surgery. Ryans physician surgically removed the damaged disc that was causing the pain in his back and fused the two surrounding vertebrae together. Today, Ryan is able to exercise and stay fit; he has even set a goal for completing a mini-triathlon.

Back surgery should be considered a last resort solution after trying less serious treatments. Approximately 90 percent of back pain cases will heal with conservative, non-surgical treatments or time. Although back surgery can be highly effective in many cases, it is not appropriate for many of the more common, less serious conditions that cause back pain. Additionally, patients considering surgery should discuss their options with their physician and learn about what to expect before, during and after surgery.

Additional information about back surgery and physician experts can be obtained by calling (877) 4INFUSE or visiting www.back.com on the Internet.

Courtesy of ARA Content

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