DALLAS. (KFSN) -- Even though most back problems get better on their own, about 600,000 Americans opt for surgery every year. Spinal fusion is the most common approach, but more and more people are choosing another technique.
When 35-year-old Gara Little plays soccer with her four-year-old son now she does so almost pain free, which is a huge improvement from a few years ago.
Little told Ivanhoe, "It's very liberating because I can live the life I wanted to live and always hoped for and dreamed of and be the mom that I want to be."
Gara suffered from painful degenerative disc disease since her early 20's. Most doctors said a spinal fusion would be best. But one doctor suggested a spinal disc replacement.
Richard Guyer, MD, Spine Surgeon at the Texas Back Institute in Dallas told Ivanhoe, "That to me is the most gratifying thing. To see patients get their life back. To go from being truly disabled and not be able to do anything, not be able to enjoy themselves, to go back and do what they should be doing as a human being."
Dr. Guyer and his partners pioneered the first artificial disc replacement surgeries for FDA studies back in 2000. Studies show that ADR may improve outcomes over fusion by quicker recovery, improved mobility, reduced pain, reduced need for additional surgery and medication.
Little said, "New is good. Fusion's been around a long time. It doesn't make it great, maybe for someone older, but I wanted to live life."
While artificial disc replacement is FDA approved, insurance doesn't always cover it. Gara's family paid about $40,000 for her surgery.
"It truly blows my mind because I've done amazing. I have had zero complications. It was the best decision I've ever made," she said.
Patients interested in artificial disc replacement should consult not only their spine physician, but their insurance company as well, to see if a procedure is covered or if it is considered experimental.
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Artificial Disc Replacement
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