Revolutionary spine surgery takes pain, long recovery away for most patients

The procedure offers faster and easier recovery
The procedure offers faster and easier recovery

HOUSTON – Just shy of 70-years-old, Russell DeBarbieris averages about 100 miles on his bicycle.

“I can ride from here to Beaumont with no hands,” DeBarbieris said.

However, when he noticed he was losing power and getting tired faster, he consulted with Dr. Andrew Roeser at the Texas Orthopedic Hospital, who informed him there was a problem with a disk in his back.

Instead of a traditional, invasive operation, Dr. Roeser and Dr. David Wimberley surgically fix problems like this in a way that reduces pain and time.

“These procedures, you know, used to take several hours, you know, sometimes up to four hours to do this procedure. The one this morning took about an hour and 15 minutes to do the same thing,” Roeser explained.

“Most people that have the surgery, have the surgery because they have a pinched nerve and have severe pain that radiates into one or both of their legs, and the blessing with a surgery like this is folks wake up and their like pain is usually gone about 85% of the time,” Wimberley said.

It’s called a PTP procedure, and the surgeons said it’s different from most spine surgeries because of how the patient is lying face down during the operation. The surgeon will go in through the patient’s side instead of through the back. This position allows gravity to maintain the natural curvature of the spine.

“Then we can slide in a piece of 3D printed metal titanium that goes in there and helps lift one bone up off (typically would be a collapsed disc) help relieve pressure off the nerve, and help that whole area fuse much more quickly,” Roeser said.

The titanium is porous so the bone will grow into it and fuse together as opposed to traditional plastic pieces where the bone could not grow.

“In the United States, there are hundreds of thousands of spine fusions that happen every single year,” Wimberley said. “This is frequently a situation where their spine has become unstable, where they have two bones that move independent of one another and that can cause tremendous irritation to the nerves and result in tremendous pain for that person.”

However, Russell won’t have to worry about that. He was back on his bike just weeks post-surgery.

“You don’t have to live in pain in today’s world. I mean, it’s just like, I’ll be 70 next year. What am I waiting for? You know, I want quality of life. I want to maintain the lifestyle I have now,” DeBarbieris said.