Patients with degenerative spinal-disc disease and other conditions often have leg and back pain that can be relieved only through spinal fusion surgery, in which a diseased or damaged vertebrae nucleus is removed and two or more vertebrae are fused together. Vertebral Technologies, a spinal-surgery device company in Minnetonka, has created the InterFuse Interbody Fusion System, a new implant used in spine fusion surgery. The implant is placed into the vertebral nucleus (inside the bone), maintaining and stabilizing the space between the vertebrae and allowing bone to grow through it and fuse the vertebrae together.
“What we’ve done is developed an implant that can be put in posteriorly through the back through a small incision,” says Jeffrey Felt, chairman and CEO of Vertebral Technologies.
The implant comes in modules and can be customized to a patient by using as few as three or as many as six modules; the implants come in four different heights. To determine which height to use, the surgeon measures the height of discs above and below a vertebra. Typically, the modules are used in the lower lumbar area of the spine.
“These modules slide down a rail and lock in place and then the rail is removed,” Felt says. “It’s kind of like building a ship in a bottle—you’re able to create a very full footprint through a small orifice.”
Using a small incision means there’s less trauma for patients, minimizing blood loss and the chances of complications. Other implants can only be as big as the incision, and they can migrate out of place in the body, Felt says.
The larger InterFuse implant provides more surface area for the bone to grow through, promoting stronger fusion of the vertebrae. Felt says that the vertebrae of patients with InterFuse implants fuse faster.