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Artificial Disc's Need to Gain Favor Now ! (My Story)

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:38 AM in Degenerative Disc Disease
Why are things stalled out in the industry over the acceptance of artificial lumbar disc replacement ?

In 2003, I was patient ONE , a 40 year old back pain sufferer enrolled in the Really Cool Study . I withdrew from the study after being randomly selected a the “gold” standard fusion because as a Mechanical Engineer, I firmly believed that restoring motion was as important as relieving pain for two reasons; stiffness and the risk of future adjacent disc level degeneration. I waited and waited for the next five years for an ALDR. I appealed and wrote letters but got zero response from my TWO managed care providers. Then finally in 2008, I felt I couldn’t take the pain any longer and underwent a double lumbar fusion of L5/S1 & L4/5 at Hospital in New England . The sadist part of the story is after a mere 18 months , I now have adjacent level spinal degeneration of L3/4.
I need to understand where the future is for me in the next 2-5 years.
I can’t help but feel regrets with the health care system’s reluctance to provide insurance coverage for ALDR. This is something that I will most likely have to deal with the rest of my life.
I still experience tremendous pain while sitting down. I would like to understand what options are left to restore or preserve motion at this point in my lumbar spine. Is there any further medical procedure possible to either replace either L4/5 and or L3/4 with ALDR’s in an attempt to stop post fusion adjacent level disc degeneration. At this point my chips are ALL IN and I am willing to be a guinea pig. Quite honestly when I hesitated and withdrew from 2003 Really Cool study. I thought that there was nearly some possibility of adjacent disc disease maybe when I was 60 years old or something but never in my wildest dreams would I think I would hit the disc degeneration jackpot so soon after surgery.

I really think my case needs to be reviewed or referenced in some study or publication to turn the table on the subject of spinal fusion and Artificial Lumbar Disc Replacement. I feel that my life has been directly affected by the misguided opinions that ALDR are not and significantly better than Lumbar Fusion. I disagree and I offer my case as empirical evidence and an intuitive mechanical design fundamentals that fusing my back was not the best option as compared to restorative motion. The only way anything will ever change in this “near perfect” US health care system is if stories like mine are uncovered and insurers are accountable for their decisions regarding my care and the cost to my life and how about the potential cost to the health care system.

I don’t believe the industry is effectively managing care or cost !

Edited by Moderator - Jeaux. Sorry, but Spine-Health reserves the right to edit any messages posted or submitted or e-mailed to the Company and use them for content on the website or in other company materials. No e-mail solicitation or advertising of other companies, products, services, or web sites is permitted in the Spine-Health.com forums.


  • I am replying to the question you pose at the beginning of your post. There are many reasons why the US is slow to accept artificial disc replacement as the standard procedure. The FDA is slower to approve surgical procedures than in other parts of the world. People on the opposite side of the issue from you would defend their position by saying there is not a long enough history of data to know the outcome of ADR long-term. When insurance companies were just beginning to approve the surgeries in the US, some new studies came out showing that results from ADR were no better, and perhaps a bit worse than fusion. (I was just reading a study this morning, and now can't find it to cite it...I'll keep looking.)

    Are you familiar with this website? Edited ** . It is a support group for those interested in artificial disc replacement--those who have questions, those who have had the surgery, etc. You can see that there are many unhappy stories there, too. It is not just fusion patients who regret they didn't try something else.

    In your case, I doubt there is any way to determine if you would have had additional disc problems with ADR or not. One cannot assume that if you had ADR, the rest of your discs would never degenerate. I don't believe there is any way to predict that.

    Anyway, this is a topic that is being debated at a national level. For a variety of reasons, I don't think you are going to see ADR become the treatment of choice in the US the way it is in Germany any time soon.

    Regarding your own situation, perhaps the insurance company would be willing to OK a one-level ADR, if it is still possible to do it. I'm sorry you are still in pain and hope you will be able to find a solution to your problem.


    ** Edited by moderator - Jeaux. If interested in that link, please send a private message to Gwennie and she will be happy to furnish the info.

    Standards agreement and posting rules
    Please note that Spine-Health reserves the right to edit any messages posted or submitted or e-mailed to the Company and use them for content on the website or in other company materials. No e-mail solicitation or advertising of other companies, products, services, or web sites is permitted in the Spine-Health.com forums.

  • I know someone who went to Germany for the procedure, and it failed. Is now getting recommendations from two different experts in the U.S. Just one story, but of value to know.

  • Jeaux, Mods, Admins,

    I understand the removal of links to sites that are competing with SH. After all this is a business first, and forum last.

    But come on people. The guy linked to a study about ADR. Was it a sales pitch or something? I'd like to see links to case studies about fusion, ADR, etc... I don't see how that hurts SH as a business???

  • i am in the uk where ADR is done without much thought for the long term outcome .i have learned that its a feather in the hospital cap and a gold star in the surgeons CV for every ADR that they do regardless of the out come !!! i am on the verge of deciding about ADR ..as many of you know i have suffered in pain for many years and ADR is the only option .BUT i am not too happy with the outcome i know that TLADR will more than Lilly add to this post and tell us how well he is going {and i hope he remains in good health } but i have had many emails from around the world warning me NOT to have ADR i know of many failures regarding ADR and only a few good results ..since i have had 2 failed back operations and now i have a back full of arthritis i doubt if i can even be considered for ADR i may just have to suffer on as i am ..i will find out on thursday the 26 nov 2009 ..anyway ADR is the last ditch attempt to restore a bad back and should not be an operation that you undertake lightly .
  • how do you know that the ADR would have been any better or more successful?
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