Scoliosis surgery with less recovery time

April 17, 2009 11:12:34 AM PDT
New techniques for back surgery are getting kinder and gentler. But we've never had a kinder, gentler scoliosis surgery until now.How about a surgery with a six week recovery instead of six months? And having two inch incisions instead of one big one? It's rare to have something new for scoliosis. But the X-LIF is new and a blessing for Linda Jaynes.

"I used to fall a lot because leaning forward I fell," she said.

"It didn't matter whose house we would go to -- she would lie on the floor or on the couch," said Linda's husband Jerry.

Linda had a 50 degree curve in her spine. She took narcotics -- even morphine for her pain. But two weeks after the X-LIF surgery she says her pain was gone.

"And I can stand up straight now," said Linda.

"No more back pain no more patches no more heat packs," said Jerry.

The X-LIF also works for people with a degenerated disc.

"In the appropriate person who can have this done, there really is no downside, less blood loss, quicker surgery better fusion and quicker recovery. There really is no downside,"said Dr. Mohammad Etminan with Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital.

Surgeons go through the side in a two inch incision versus a 6-12 inch incision. The damaged disc is removed and surgeons put a spacer called 'the cage' in between the vertebrae. Because it's large it causes the bone to actually line up.

In scoliosis, Dr. Etminan sometimes uses a rod, as in traditional surgery, but no big incision. He inserts the rod by punching through the skin. This new technique has great potential for children with scoliosis. And for those like Linda, who were sick of the pain.

"This has definitely changed all of our lives," said Linda.

The X-LIF won't work for someone with an upper back curve. But it should help many people with a lower back curve or a degenerative disc.

Another surprising plus for minimally invasive back surgeries like the X-LIF -- surgeons say the "re-operation" rate for a problem after surgery is about one percent compared with about 20 percent for the standard lumbar fusion surgery.

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Christi Myers is ABC13's Healthcheck reporter


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