New surgery for back pain

Four out of five people will suffer back pain at some point in their lives.

It can be debilitating and life altering but now a new procedure can ease the pain faster than ever before.

Jeff Pellisier was a surfer, a rodeo rider and a big game hunter but when back pain struck, he was desperate for relief.

"I was completely sedentary,” he said. "I remember I was on the strongest opium patch you can have."

So, Pellisier tried a new surgery.

"I was not ready to give up any activities, much less all of them at age 50,” he said.

Pellisier’s problem along with a million others who suffer from lower back pain- the sacroiliac joint.

"It's a really strong joint that keeps us standing,” said Dr. Neel Anand, director of spine trauma minimally invasive spine surgery at the Cedars-Sinai Spine Center in Los Angeles.

Dr. Anand is one of the first to perform a minimally invasive procedure that uses titanium implants bolted into the pelvis to stabilize the joint.

"In the past we used to open up and go down. Today we have three pins through a small incision of about an inch,” he said.

Another difference is recovery time. For traditional fusion surgery it's 6 months, for the minimally invasive procedure it's two weeks. Dr. Anand said the new technique patients can go home the next day.

"We basically put in three pins right through the pelvis and lock it into place."

The pins are covered with a plasma spray to help the bone grow around and into the implant for more stability. The day after surgery, Pellisier was up and walking.

One year out from his operation, he has moved on to more adventurous things. "I’ve been doing some surfing and some dog sledding."

The implants are not a first line of defense for joint sufferers.First steroid shots are used, then radio frequency ablation then the surgery. The implants will most likely last for life.

BACKGROUND: Low back pain is the fifth most common reason for all physician visits in the United
States. The sacroiliac joint (or SI joint for short) is the second most common area where people experience back pain. Many people mistakenly refer to it as their "hip", but the SI joint is part of the spine. The joints form the connection between the spine and the pelvis. The pain forms if the Sacroiliac joint is rotated or tilted out of place causing the back to become less stable. This can lead to pain higher up in the back due to compensation. (
CAUSES: As with most other joints in the body, the SI joints have a cartilage layer covering the bone. The cartilage allows for some movement and acts as a shock absorber between the bones. When this cartilage is damaged or worn away, the bones begin to rub on each other, and degenerative arthritis (osteoarthritis) occurs. This is the most common cause of SI joint dysfunction. Another common cause of SI joint dysfunction is pregnancy. During pregnancy, hormones are released in the woman's body that allows ligaments to relax. This prepares the body for childbirth. Relaxation of the ligaments holding the SI joints together allows for increased motion in the joints and can lead to increased stresses and abnormal wear. The additional weight and walking pattern associated with pregnancy also places additional stress on the SI joints. Really, any condition that alters the normal walking pattern places increased stress on the SI joints. (Source:
TREATMENT: Surgery for SI dysfunction involves a fusion of the SI joints. In this invasive surgery, the cartilage covering the surfaces of the SI joints is removed and the bones are held together with plates and screws until they grow together (fuse). This eliminates all motion at the SI joints and typically relieves the pain. The recovery time for this type of surgery is generally around 6 months. (Source:

NEW TECHNOLOGY: Dr. Neel Anand, Director of Spine Trauma at Cedars-Sinai Spine Center in Los Angeles is breaking ground on a new surgery to ease back pain. The procedure is called iFuse. This MIS procedure requires a smaller incision and uses a guide pin to place the titanium implants across the sacroiliac joint. These small implants are designed to fix the sacroiliac (SI) joint and allow stable healing through minimization of micromotion. Typically three iFuse implants are used in an iFuse procedure. (Source: and
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