Back Story

Local innovations are making a pain-free lifestyle possible for those living with chronic back pain

Other organizations also work with new and emerging technologies. Valley Medical Center in Renton is one of the only hospitals in the Northwest currently performing the FDA-approved artificial disk replacement surgery and is one of the few hospitals in the Seattle area to offer cervical disk replacement as an alternative to spinal fusion; this replacement procedure preserves more motion in the neck area after surgery than fusion does.

Abhineet Chowdhary, M.D., is Overlake Medical Center’s program director of neurosurgery and neuro-interventional surgery, and says the latest techniques in spinal surgery are gentler, faster and more effective. Overlake recently acquired a high-tech microscope that enables doctors to see details more clearly, reducing the need for repeat operations, according to Chowdhary. He is also the principal investigator in a clinical trial at Overlake using the iFuse Implant System, a minimally invasive surgery to stabilize the sacroiliac joint, which connects the spine to the pelvis, using a tiny incision and titanium rods. Usually this surgery is performed with a large incision and a screw-and-rod system and has only a 40–50 percent success rate.

The new approach yields better long-term results, 86 percent or greater, and patients recover much faster.  

These are the kind of developments that Michelle Hughes hopes will help her in the future. But as we went to press, Hughes reported that she was again rear-ended while stopped in traffic. She is experiencing more intense pain and is scheduled for an MRI. She’d still like to postpone surgery, if the pain is manageable and the delay doesn’t cause more nerve damage.

“Things are changing so fast,” Hughes says, “who knows what new surgical options might be available in the next few years.”