Doctors at University Hospitals in Iowa City have become the first in the state to perform a new type of back surgery. Dr. Timothy Ryken, a professor of neurosurgery at the University of Iowa, says he and his team implanted an artificial disk in the patient’s spine last week. Ryken says it won’t be a dramatic cure for all patients with back pain but some patients, with lumbar or lower spinal problems, may benefit. The surgery was performed on February 9th and lasted about seven hours, though with practice, he expects that time to be cut almost in half. Ryken says the artificial disk is inserted between two back bones or vertebra. There are two titanium plates that fit into where the diseased disk has been removed and between them is a polyethylene disk which should allow for natural motion. Other surgeries in that area would involve fusing the bones, which would halt movement. Ryken says this surgery was rather unusual, in several ways.To best access the spine, doctors enter through the abdomen, not the back. Ryken says it takes a carefully coordinated team of surgeons. While he doesn’t expect this will be a high-demand surgery, he expects to start doing them on more of a routine basis, perhaps one or two a month.
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