Until now, treating bad discs in the back required stealing bone from other parts of the body such as the pelvis, and then grafting it into the back to stimulate new bone growth. But this often creates new pain in the pelvis.
So how do you grow new bone in the back without stealing it from the hip?
Doctors are already using one innovation- a man-made bone growing protein that can replace bad discs and fuse the spine together.
First, doctors remove the core of the troublesome disc but leave the outer shell of the disc intact so it can hold the implant. While this is done, a colleague prepares the cage, a spacer that will hold the bone growing protetin in place.
Within the spacer is a sponge made of collagen, which holds the protein. The tiny sponge is critical to the operation because if the protein spills, bone can grow where it lands.
However this procedure isn't a cure-all and is not for everyone. If the patient isn't a perfect candidate for this surgery, it can do more harm than good.
Patients are usually only considered if they've had pain for many years, and have failed all other treatments.
The best way to find out if you're a candidate is to ask your doctor if you're eligible for fusion surgery with bone morphogenic protein.