Better backs faster with the FUSE trial

Published: Nov. 9, 2020 at 8:19 AM EST
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It’s a common condition as we age. Degenerative disc disease refers to wear and tear on the ligaments in our back and neck, the discs that normally act as cushions between the bones in the spinal cord. Now, doctors are testing a new minimally invasive procedure for fusing discs and alleviating pain.

Bob Fanucci is used to seeing the world from hundreds of feet in the air but after 30 years as an electrical lineman, the job took a toll.

“You know, you’re in a bucket or you’re on a pole. Climbing is a lot of looking up,” Fanucci described.

Eventually, Bob had symptoms he could no longer ignore.

“It just was keeping me up at night kind of pain. And I couldn’t look up, and I couldn’t turn, and the crunching noises,” Fanucci expressed.

X-rays of his neck showed damage to three discs of seven, putting pressure on the nerves.

Orthopedic spine and neck surgeon Rahul Shah, MD, felt Bob would benefit from surgery— entering the front of the neck to remove the damaged discs and replace them with an implant.

Bob was also part of the FUSE clinical trial.

Doctor Shah is testing a minimally invasive way of delivering a small titanium implant through a tiny tube in the back to stabilize the spine without making long incisions.

“The muscles bounce back quicker, better, and their function, we believe, is better,” explained Dr. Shah.

Bob started feeling the difference almost immediately.

“I got the full range of motion, I could drive, I could start physical therapy. It just astounded me that the results were that dramatic,” exclaimed Fanucci.

Doctor Shah says ideal candidates for the study are people with significant pain requiring surgery, and problems with three levels of neck vertebrae.