X Marks the Spot and the Ruptured Disc

6/29/2008 PLANO, Texas "I like to do crazy things, like whitewater rafting, jumping out of airplanes," Michelle Roche says.

But years of adventure took a toll on her back.

"The pain was extremely sharp and I could not get comfortable and the pain did not go away no matter what I did," Roche says.

Doctors suggested surgery to remove the herniated part of the disc.

"Patients would always ask, 'If you take out the disc, what are you going to put back in there?' Well, we never really had a very good answer," says Richard Guyer, M.D., a spine surgeon at the Texas Back Institute in Plano, Texas.

Before, the hole where part of the disc was removed was left open, leaving patients vulnerable for another rupture. Now surgeons are studying whether a new procedure could be the answer to closing that gap.

"Using very tiny instruments, you are able to pass the sutures into the ring of the disc that then allows you to criss-cross them and closes the tissue to act as a seal and then hopefully the scar tissue builds up then heals that defect," Dr. Guyer explains.

Roche and Dr. Guyer are part of a two year trial of this technique known as the Xclose Tissue Repair System.

"The main thing is to determine whether or not we are lessening the recurrence rate, and hopefully we are, because when people have a recurrence, it usually comes out the previous hole that was there," Dr. Guyer says.

An MRI charts Roche's progress. Seven months after surgery, so far so good.

"Now I don't think twice about what I am going to, I just do it," Roche says.

Dr. Guyer believes most patients who have a herniated disc are a good candidate for the technique, unless they have already had surgery.

The Texas Back Institute

For information on on-going research:
Jane Rahmani, research coordinator for SpineMark

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