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Hospital offers new approach to spine surgery

New Britain [December 01 2008] - The Hospital of Central Connecticut recently became the first hospital in the state to offer a new minimally invasive approach to spinal fusion surgery, with the benefit of significantly reduced recovery time for patients.

The procedure, which uses a tiny incision, is done to stabilize a spine that has narrowed or has disc disease, causing chronic pain. This latest fusion approach targets the space between two vertebrae (L5-S1) that bridge the lower back and pelvis. For some patients, it’s an alternative to traditional surgery, which requires a longer incision and recovery.

“This new technique presents a very unique way of addressing this problem in that you don’t have to cut through the muscles and do as much work around the spine to get to the spine,” says neurosurgeon Joseph Aferzon. In September, he conducted the procedure on a 59-year-old Newington woman, who simultaneously had an additional disc fused using another minimally invasive surgical (MIS) technique.

Aferzon says MIS for the spine offers considerable benefits. “You bypass tissue and don’t have to cut through any muscle, which would cause bleeding, more pain, and an increased risk of infection. That also translates into a shorter hospital stay and quicker recovery.”

With this new procedure, a small incision (less than one inch) is made above the tailbone. A guidance probe (rod) is inserted under X-ray visualization and a tube placed over the probe. Surgical instruments and materials are inserted through the tube. After damaged disc material is removed, bone graft material is placed within the disc space to help activate bone growth. An AxiaLif® screw, 4.5 to 6 cc long, is inserted across the disc space to provide stability and restore disc height lost from disc disease. Additional screws are frequently placed through a small incision in the back to further support the spine.

The procedure requires about a two-day hospital stay, shorter than the typical four to five days for traditional spinal fusion surgery, says Aferzon. Recovery is also minimized, averaging one week to 10 days using the new technique vs. two to three weeks for the traditional approach. Patients also receive physical therapy.

Potential candidates for the procedure, says Aferzon, must be otherwise healthy and without osteoporosis. Spinal fusion patients stay at the hospital’s Joint and Spine Center, which includes an 18-bed general orthopedic and spine services unit.

Contact: Kimberly Gensicki, 860-224-5900, x6507

HCC Corporate Communications
(860) 224-5695 • Fax (860) 224-5779