Thursday, April 5, 2007
Medical Reports: Back on Track
For the 25 million Americans suffering from severe back pain, surgery used to be the only option, and it often didn't relieve the pain. But, as 7's Diana Diaz shows us, there is a new treatment that is putting sufferers back on track.
WSVN -- Sue Henriquez has been packing up and taking off for the past 12 years.
Sue Henriquez: "I love flying. I love what I do."
But, a few years ago, a herniated disc nearly grounded this flight attendant.
Her pain was unbearable.
Sue Henriquez: "On a scale of one to 10, I'd say it was around a 10 or 11. I have felt that not being able to work, or work as much as I wanted to, was like cutting my wings."
Instead of going for traditional back surgery, Sue decided to join a clinical trial for a new procedure that's like angioplasty for the spine.
John Regan: "The hope is that this little balloon goes in there and will somewhat re-inflate the disk."
Here's how it works: Surgeons make a tiny incision and place this device in the bad disc.
Then, a balloon filled with polyurethane is inflated.
That balloon stays in the spine and creates a cushion for the discs, easing the pain.
Sue was the first person in the country to have it.
Dr. John Regan: "Well, it's very exciting. This is something that we've been looking for."
The recovery is much quicker than surgery.
The balloon is designed to last forever, but that's something doctors will have to monitor.
Six weeks after her surgery, Sue is pain-free and is finally ready to hit the friendly skies again.
For her, it's like a new season.
Sue Henriquez: "It feels like summer. You get that jittery sensation in your stomach, and you can't wait to do all the summer things you do. That's how it feels like."
Right now this device is still in clinical trials and is at least a few years away from approval.
The best candidates for the balloon procedure are those with discs that aren't totally collapsed.