Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is an age or injury-related condition that happens when one or more vertebrae in the spinal column herniate or break down. There are rubbery discs in between each vertebra that allow the back to bend. However, these deteriorate over time and can’t offer as much protection as before. A disc herniation or bone spurs can lead to numbness or weakness in the outer extremities.
How is degenerative disc disease treated?
Traditionally, DDD is treated through a surgery called anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF). Dr. David Xu, assistant professor of neurosurgery at Baylor Medicine and neurosurgeon at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center, works with DDD patients and performs the ACDF surgery on moderate and high-risk patients.
“An ACDF decompresses the spine, then permanently fuses the bones together to reduce continued degeneration. The surgery requires a small incision through the front of the neck and is successful more than 95% of the time when treating a single level of the vertebra.”
-Dr. David Xu
In the past, the ACDF surgery has commonly been known to fail on high-risk patients, people with chronic conditions, and patients needing multiple fusions throughout the C3 to C7 vertebrae.
What is the FUSE Study?
The FUSE Study is a clinical trial to examine a new technique to treat high-risk patients with degenerative disc disease. Patients are chosen at random to receive ACDF alone or to receive ACDF paired with the posterior cervical stabilization system (PCSS). PCSS is a minimally invasive surgery to treat patients with DDD who might be at a higher risk of complications.
In this study, the surgeon takes a unique set of implants and inserts them through two small incisions in the back of the neck. This new process is tissue-sparing and reduces blood loss and muscle disruption. The purpose of the clinical trial is to determine if ACDF plus PCSS will result in better outcomes when treating 3-level cervical degenerative disease.
“We want to help create the gold standard for this type of surgery, making it easier for patients to recover with minimal damage to the muscles in the neck.”
-Dr. David Xu
Who qualifies for this clinical trial?
Patients who participate in the study have DDD and need three levels of vertebrae fused. Participants will visit their doctor for an assessment before entering the study and then receive the randomized assignment of getting the ACDF surgery or the ACDF plus PCSS surgery. After the surgery, the patient will return to their doctor six times — at six weeks, three months, six months, nine months, 12 months, and 24 months — to track symptoms and overall improvement. The doctor will perform X-rays and CT scans at 12 and 24 months to ensure proper fusion to the treated vertebrae.
Do you have pain in your neck or back from an injury or age-related wear and tear? Does this pain interfere with your daily life? Schedule an appointment with a St. Luke’s Health spine specialist to learn about your treatment options and whether you qualify for the FUSE clinical trial.
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