Suffolk doctor is first to perform new procedure

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 3, 2005

Suffolk News-Herald

In the last months of 2004, Dr. David Goss of the Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center, Inc. on Burnett’s Way in Suffolk was working with a patient in her 30s that had been suffering from lower back pain.

&uot;She had tried multiple non-surgical techniques,&uot; Goss said. &uot;She’d tried medicine and physical therapy, and nothing had worked.&uot;

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It looked as if the woman might have to undergo spinal fusion, in which a part of the vertebrae is removed and bone grafts are added to the spine, held in place by rods or screws. While this technique has been successful on the whole, it often causes stiffness and pain.

Then Goss told the woman about a new device called the Charite Artificial Disc, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in October. Made of two metallic endplates with a high-density polyethylene center, the disc is implanted in place of a painful, degenerated disc in the lower back. Unlike fusion, it preserves much of the normal motion of the lumbar spine.

Rather than the three- or four-hour operation time of fusion, the new procedure takes between one and two.

Hospital stays usually don’t last more than a day or two, and 92 percent of patients are able to return to work, with 63 percent of heavy laborers returning to their same employment level.

The patient decided to try the new innovation, and Goss performed his first surgery of its type in Hampton Roads on Dec. 30.

&uot;It went beautifully,&uot; he said. &uot;She spent two nights in the hospital. I saw her two weeks after the operation, and she was pain-free, off narcotics.

&uot;People have to have come to a point where nothing else works,&uot; said Goss, who has performed two more such surgeries since then and has four more lined up through the end of March.

The ideal candidate for the technique is someone with a degenerative disc disease in the lower back. &uot;They either have to live with pain or have surgery. If placed now, the disc should last a lifetime.

&uot;With normal wear and tear, they should last about 80 years.&uot;