Jerrette Langford grew up riding horses, but one day it almost killed him.
“I had a horse wreck. A horse flipped over on top of me and it crushed me,” he says.
The L-4 and L-5 discs in his spine were shattered beyond repair and Jerrette joined the millions of Americans with chronic back pain.
The standard surgical procedure is a spinal fusion, where the damaged discs are removed and the adjacent segments are fused together. But it has a downside for young patients.
“When you remove one motion segment from the spine sometimes what you can do is you eventually put more pressure on an adjacent disc and so that disc that's adjacent to it starts breaking down as well,” says Dr. Dean Lin, a neurosurgeon with Lee Memorial Health System.
So Dr. Lin suggested a new procedure: giving Jerrette a lumbar spine implant, replacing his damaged discs with artificial ones.
The use of artificial implants follows a trend set in orthopedics. Years ago knees and hips were commonly fused until new technologies allowed surgeons to replace the damaged joints. Spine surgery is following in the footsteps.
Theoretically you would then not have the adjacent segment problem down the road, says Dr. Lin.
Lumbar disc implants are already gaining interest.
“We’ve had a lot of patients ask about it. The problem is right now, in 2011, it's only FDA approved for a single level and it's only FDA approved for 55 years and younger,” says Dr. Lin.
The surgery worked wonders for Jerrette who is now back in the saddle.
“I hadn’t rode a horse in over five years and I can ride again.”