New Surgical Procedure Offers Relief from Degenerative Disc Disease

January 10, 2008 - Posted at 4:01 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, AR -- Thousands of Americans who have struggled with lower back pain have had limited options for treatment in the past...especially those suffering from Degenerative Disc Disease.

After months of nonsurgical treatment, many resort to spinal fusion surgery to replace the damaged lumbar disc...this healing process is lengthy and often the affected lumbar segment will become rigid and immobile after it heals.

While spinal fusion technology has evolved, it's not the operation for everyone. A breakthrough in prosthetics discs gives patients another option and allows for mobility.

"It enables them to maintain a level of activity because of the motion preservation," said neurosurgeon Dr. Kenneth Tonymon.

Synthes ProDisc-L Total Disc Replacement is a lot like a joint replacement, maintaining motion between the backbones and preserving side to side and front to back bending.

"We feel that by maintaining range of motion, preserving range of motion, we really decrease chances of over stressing the level above or over stressing below and that's the main advantage over fusion at this time," said Dr. Tonymon.

Dr. Tonymon is the only person in Region 8 to offer this alternative treatment.  He works with a team of nurses and radiology technologist along with general surgeon Dr. David Phillips to perform the procedure.

"We come from the front through the abdomen, usually through a small incision and he actually gets me to the spine so that I can do my work. That perhaps is probably the most complex part of the operation," said Dr. Tonymon.

Most patients go home the next day and can be back at full force in about six weeks.

"The ideal patient would be someone who is active, who is incapacitated with back pain, not just episodic back pain but pretty much constant back pain that keeps them from doing not just what they have to do, things like going to work, taking care of their children but things that they want to do," said Dr. Tonymon.

Dr. Tonymon first performed this new procedure on New Year's Eve at NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital.  He is presently the only neurosurgeon in Jonesboro trained and certified to implant the Synthes ProDisc-L.

Dr. Tonymon says a miniature version of the surgery for the neck is in the works next.