New Technology May Help High Risk Spinal Fusion Patients

There are many reasons why patients may need to undergo spinal fusion surgery. Most patients that undergo this procedure at our lumbar spine specialty practice in New Jersey have been diagnosed with lumbar disc herniation, degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis or lumbar spinal stenosis and have not been able to benefit from other treatment options. The procedure involves the spinal canal being widened, any herniated discs or other material being removed, and then a bone graft being placed where the discs once were. The surgical site is stabilized with titanium screws and rods in order to help fuse the vertebrae together, but regrowth of bone is not guaranteed – especially for high-risk patients who suffer from diabetes or who smoke.

To address the problem, Texas Medical Center has invited a start-up company called Intelligent Implants to become a part of its Center for Design Innovation. The company’s co-founder and principal engineer, Juan Pardo, is using electric fields to spur bone growth in patients for whom the success of fusion surgery is in question.

Pardo’s innovation is geared toward “certain outcomes.” His company is headquartered in Ireland, but once it investigated U.S. regulations and began testing a prototype device in sheep, he was invited to bring his research and development office to Houston, where the company now has office space and business growth assistance from the Texas Medical Center’s TMCx accelerator. They have even been provided access to a machine shop and engineers.

According to Pardo, his company’s product is aimed towards improving outcomes for spinal fusion patients in whom bone growth is less likely, or who are at risk for bone growing incorrectly and leading to further pain as a result of impinging on nerve roots or the spinal cord. He has created a small implant to be used for these specific patients, who will wear it in a lumbar corset after their surgery: the device activates an electrical field similar to that found naturally in healthy patients’ bodies. The implant will emit signals that direct protein and minerals to the surgical area to spur bone growth and redirect building block materials that begin accumulating in areas that could lead to pain.

Speaking of the state-of-the-art technology, TMC Innovation Institute Director Erik Halvorsen said, “They’re working on a technology that is addressing a pretty significant unmet clinical need.” The non-invasive technology is charged wirelessly through a battery pack and is meant to be used throughout the patient’s recovery.

The technology is currently in the testing phases and it is unknown how much time will pass before it is available, but lumbar spine specialists look to these innovative products to allow for even greater success for those undergoing spinal fusion surgery.

If you are suffering from back pain caused by lumbar disc herniation or any other condition, your first step to recovery is setting an appointment for examination and diagnosis with our lumbar spine specialist in New Jersey. Contact us today to find a convenient time to come in for a consultation.

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