New spinal procedure available here |

New spinal procedure available here

Becky Bosshart
Rick Gunn/Nevada Appeal David Jones, M.D. holds a model of the lumbar fusion surgery, left, and to the right is the new Charité Artificial Disc Replacement. The FDA approved the the Charité in October.

Dr. David Jones described a spinal disc as a jelly donut between your bones.

When that disc ruptures or tears, fibers inside the disc cause back or leg pain. And as anyone who has had a degenerative disc knows, that causes a lot of pain requiring anti-inflammatory drugs and physical therapy. Spinal surgeons have operated on degenerative disc disease patients by fusing the bones together with rods and screws, limiting the movement, which should end the pain.

But Jones said he hopes a new spinal surgery procedure called artificial disc replacement – recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration – will bring his patients freedom from pain and allow them to regain spinal movement, which was impossible with the fusion procedure.

He returned last week from a two-day class on artificial disc replacement at the Johnson & Johnson headquarters in Cincinnati. Only about 40 doctors attended the first workshop, so Jones could be the first surgeon in Northern Nevada to perform the new surgery.

“Something like this has never been done before,” Jones said while holding a plastic replica of a spinal cord section. He twisted the bones to show how the disc allows the bones to rotate. Two metal plates attached to the bones are separated by a piece of plastic that allows motion. The artificial disc is called Charité and is developed in France.

“We’ll remove the painful disc and replace it with an artificial disc that gives motion to the patient.”

The artificial spinal disc follows similar devices used in knee and hip replacements, he said. A candidate for this surgery would have one or two degenerated discs, has failed to find pain relief after three to six months of non-operative care. A person who has already had fusion surgery would not be an ideal candidate for it, he said.

Jones, who has worked at the Tahoe Fracture & Orthopedic Medical Clinic for about five years, is a board-certified, fellowship trained spine surgeon.

“I think it’s an honor to be selected as the first person to be trained in Northern Nevada.”

He operates at Carson-Tahoe Hospital on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays. He sees patients in Gardnerville on Tuesday, and at the 1104 N. Division St. clinic on Thursday. The 38-year-old surgeon performs from four to 10 spinal operations a week. This year he’s done from 300 to 400 fusion surgeries. Jones hopes to perform about 75 artificial disc replacements in 2005. So far he has about 15 candidates for the surgery in Carson City.

An FDA official said the Charité Artificial Disc was approved for use in the U.S. on Oct. 26.

Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at or 881-1212.