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Addressing a Common Challenge
Fusion surgery can treat a number of problems with the spine, including those arising from trauma, inborn deformity, degenerative disease, infection and tumors.
But five to 35 percent of these procedures fail, even when using the "gold standard" treatment of grafting bone from the patient’s own iliac crest.
Fusion failure, otherwise known as pseudoarthrosis, is a major cause of failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS) and results in significant pain and disability, increasing the need for additional procedures and driving up health care costs.
Advancing Techniques, Improving Results
The ultimate goal of the Spinal Fusion Laboratory is to eliminate pseudoarthrosis by using animal models to study various strategies for improving spinal fusion outcomes, including:
- Delivery of various growth factors and biological agents
- Stem cell therapies
- Tissue engineering approaches
Spinal fusion in our animal models is assessed using a combination of complementary techniques, incorporating manual palpitation, X-ray and computed tomography (CT) imaging, histology and biomechanical testing.
Our laboratory is also interested in problems concerning overall spine health. In particular, we aim to investigate therapies for improving vertebral bone quality in patients with conditions such as osteoporosis that may require future spinal fusion procedures.
Currently we are developing an animal model to explore the effects of localized radiation therapy on spinal structure and stability, and testing potential therapies for the prevention of vertebral compression fractures in spinal oncology patients.