Clip offers alternative for back pain

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A Coflex clip placed between the laminar bones at the back of the spine holds the vertebrae in position, but allows it to flex. (KGO-TV)

Kim Archibald is not the kind of person who's used to sitting around, whether it's marathon bike rides along the coast or hiking through rugged mountain ranges. But two years ago, intense back pain changed all that.

"It was nerve pain, and it would radiate from my lower back all the way down my legs. So the only time I had any kind of relief was when I was sitting," Archibald said.

Danville spine surgeon Dr. Robert Rovner diagnosed Archibald with spinal stenosis. Vertebrae in her lower back had become unstable, putting painful pressure on surrounding nerves. Serious cases can require a spinal fusion, where screws are placed to stabilize the spine. But instead, Rovner recommended a less invasive procedure using a clip like device called the Coflex.

"With this device, the first patient I did this on says I feel great. And he was back to playing tennis and golf in two weeks," Rovner said.

He says the procedure typically involves removing a section of bone around the nerve area, to relieve the pressure, known as a laminectomy. But instead of fusing the vertebrae afterward, the surgeon places the Coflex clip between the laminar bones at the back of the spine, holding the vertebrae in position, but allowing it to flex.

"So you still extend the same amount. In fact, pre-op patients can't extend at all it's so painful, so post op they can extend," he said.

He says the titanium clip is not for everyone, and patients with more serious deterioration may still require more extensive surgery or disc fusion. But for patients like Archibald it offers a shorter surgery, with more freedom of movement, and a quicker recovery time.

Archibald plans take advantage of her new pain free back by hitting the road again.

"I'm going to be doing some backpacking next year. My son and I are going to go to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro," she saids.

One advantage of the Coflex is that it can be easily removed in a follow up procedure if the patient's condition changes or worsens.

Written and produced by Tim Didion
Related Topics:
healthsurgeryhealth caredoctorsDanville
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