(07/19/12) - A new procedure could bring more relief to people who suffer chronic back pain.
The surgical technique helped Jeff Pllisier get his life back. He was a surfer, a rodeo rider and a big game hunter but, he says, when back pain struck, he was "completely sedentary."
Jeff was desperate for relief. "I remember I was on the strongest opiate patch you can have."
His decision to have surgery was a quality of life matter. "I was not ready to give up any activities, much less all of them at age 50."
Jeff is among thousands who suffer from lower back pain in the sacroiliac, or SI, joint.
"It's a really strong joint that keeps us standing," said Dr. Neel Anand of Cedars-Sinai Spine Center in Los Angeles.
Anand is one of the first to perform a minimally invasive procedure that uses titanium implants bolted into the pelvis to stabilize the joint. "In the past, we used to open up and go down. Today we have three pins through a small incision of about an inch."
Another difference - recovery time. For traditional fusion surgery, it's six months. For the minimally invasive procedure, it's two weeks. In fact, with the new technique, patients can go home the next day.
"We basically put in three pins right through the pelvis and lock it into place," Dr. Anand says.
The pins are covered with a plasma spray to help the bone grow around and into the implant for more stability. The day after surgery, Jeff was up and walking.
One year out from his operation and Jeff is moving on to even more adventurous things. "I've been doing some surfing and some dog sledding."
The implants are not a first line of defense for SI joint sufferers. First, steroid shots are used, then radio frequency ablation, then the surgery.
The implants will most likely last for life.
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