Whiplash and other accidents that cause the head to move rapidly back and forth on the spine can cause vertebrae fractures or compression of the spinal disks and nerves. Degenerative disk disease, which can be worsened by an accident, can also cause severe pain when vertebrae rub against one another or a spinal nerve is pinched. Doctors often recommend cervical fusion surgery for these types of injuries.
Any type of spinal surgery involving a fusion presents tremendous risk to the patient and, even if performed properly, often fail to achieve complete therapeutic relief of symptoms. These surgeries usually will require an implant harvested from bone in the body, a cadaver bone or some type of synthetic bone to aid in the fusion process.
In a true case of technology meeting medicine, a graduate student at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, has come us with a technology which helps enable the production of implants crafted of each patient's own mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) using a 3-D printer at very little cost. The cells can be cultured for about one month outside the body on plastic scaffolds, where they begin to grow into osteoblasts (bone cells) until they resemble human bone. The article explains the technology and potential medical impact can be found here. One of the impressive features of the technology is the potential that the implant would be able to withstand loads greater than that of the human spine.
If and when this technology becomes approved and utilized by spinal surgeons, it could signal a breakthrough for patients suffering from spinal injuries who require spinal fusion surgeries and other surgical interventions. It could also become the standard of care for patients needing spinal fusion surgery.
If you or a loved one have sustained a spinal injury, call Queller, Fisher, Washor, Fuchs & Kool, L.L.P., at 212-406-1700 for a free consultation.