The New York Times reports:
“It’s the first revolutionary improvement in spine surgery since Harrington in the 1950’s,” said Dr. Bitan, referring to Paul Harrington, inventor of the tools that made spinal fusion a common treatment for a variety of serious back ailments.
Artificial disks, which were introduced in Europe two decades ago, promise the same or better pain relief as spinal fusions, which protect degenerating natural disks from pressure by joining the vertebrae above and below the disk into a single immobile segment of bone. Their real advantage though, according to Dr. Bitan and other researchers, is that patients recover more quickly from insertion of disks, retain far more flexibility and are less likely to need further surgery than spinal fusion patients.
The Johnson & Johnson disk consists of cobalt-chromium endplates around high-density polyethylene. It is named Charite after the hospital in Berlin, where the first version of the device was created 20 years ago by Dr. Karen Buttner-Janz, a former East German Olympic medalist in gymnastics.
Some of the anecdotal evidence for the Charite is impressive. The first European recipient of a Charite disk is still playing tennis 20 years later, according to Dr. Bitan. And Jeffrey Lee Gibson, a 46-year-old stunt man who received a disk two years ago as part of the trial of Charite in the United States, said he left the hospital the day of the surgery and was able to perform a four-story stomach-first fall for the television show “Third Watch” 12 weeks later.
More on Charite from DePuy Spine.