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Innovative Technology May Improve Outcomes for Lumbar Fusion Patients

Lumbar fusion surgery is just one of the answers provided by the specialists at the Central Texas Spine Institute. The procedure is specifically designed to provide pain relief for those whose spinal injuries or degenerative disc disease have led to a reduction in the space between the vertebrae and the spinal nerve root becoming compressed. It involves the removal of a damaged or deteriorated disc and spacers being placed within the spinal column to take pressure off of the nerve route: then metal cages are threaded into the bone matter of the two adjacent vertebrae and packed with bone graft with the idea of the patient’s bone eventually growing through the metal cage, forming a bridge of solid bone that provides stability.

Though the spinal fusion procedure is largely successful, there are patients for whom the regrowth of bone is a less certain outcome. These patients are often suffering from diabetes. Some are smokers. Whatever the individual reason, these patients are at higher risk for a return of back pain and face a 40 percent failure rate. To address this problem, the co-founder and principal engineer of Intelligent Implants, an Irish company has created an innovative solution involving a medical device that will promote bone growth. Juan Pardo’s invention emits electric signals similar to the workings of a healthy body, attracting minerals and protein to the surgical area to facilitate and direct proper bone growth in patients at high risk for the body failing to do so on its own.

The introduction of Intelligent Implants technology comes as a result of a special business growth assistance program that is a collaboration between the Texas Medical Center and Johnson & Johnson.  The TMCx accelerator is a collaborative biomedical facility that invites innovators from around the world to establish research and development laboratories in Houston. In the case of the spinal fusion product, the JLABS incubator is providing office space, a machine shop, and access to experienced engineers in order to facilitate success for medical devices that improve patient outcomes. Speaking of the electrical implant, TMC Innovation Institute Director Erik Halvorsen says, “They literally hit just about all of the programs that we have. They’re working on a technology that is addressing a pretty significant unmet clinical need.”

Pardo says that his device, which is the size of a fingertip, will be implanted between the vertebrae where it will activate an electrical field. If physicians determine that bone is growing in the wrong direction and will interfere with nerve roots or the spinal cord the signals will direct the growth particles in a different direction. “People are always surprised to hear that bone is electrically active,” Pardo said.

Patients will wear a battery pack in a lumbar corset and the device will be recharged wirelessly. Though it is unclear how long it will take for the device to be available for general use, there is great enthusiasm about the impact it will make.

For information on how lumbar spine fusion or another spinal procedure can provide you with the pain relief you need, contact our office today to set up an appointment.