Virginia’s First Artificial Spine Disc Replacement Surgery Successfully Performed at Sentara Williamsburg Community Hospital
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Virginia’s First Artificial Spine Disc Replacement Surgery Successfully Performed at Sentara Williamsburg Community Hospital 

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Virginia’s first artificial disc replacement surgery was successfully performed today for a patient who has suffered with back pain. Rebecca Drewry, a 39-year old woman who lives near Deltaville, had the surgery at Sentara Williamsburg Community Hospital. Dr. Paul Savas, an orthopedic surgeon with Mid-Atlantic Spine Specialists, and Dr. Joseph Piotrowski, a vascular surgeon with Peninsula Surgical Group, performed the surgery. Drewry is expected to be able to walk with assistance tomorrow and should be at full activity in 6-12 weeks.

Savas is one of just a few dozen surgeons in the U.S. who are qualified to implant the CHARITÉ disc, which received FDA approval in late October. According to Savas, the surgery went very well, and the patient is expected to have a complete recovery.

"This is groundbreaking medicine and it has tremendous implications for people who suffer from chronic back pain," says Dr. Savas. "This procedure offers an alternative to spinal fusion – with improved pain relief and greater range of motion."

Drewry had a slipped disc that was causing a great deal of pain in her lower back. As a mother of three, the pain had interrupted her life, leaving her unable to work or enjoy quality of time with her family.

There were times when the pain would shoot down my legs and I would literally fall to the floor," said Drewry. Drewry actually put of surgery until now just so that she could undergo the spinal implant procedure. "I liked the idea of the disc implant because it gives me greater flexibility than spinal fusion," she said.

Sentara Williamsburg Community Hospital has been chosen as a regional training center for disc replacement with the CHARITÉ Artificial Disc. The manufacturer of the disc plans to have 50 training sites in the United States. Sentara Williamsburg Community Hospital will be one of three training centers in Virginia.

"We are very pleased that Sentara Williamsburg Community Hospital has been selected for this advanced type of surgical training," says Robert Graves, administrator of SWCH. "The approval of the artificial disc represents a major step forward in surgery that can vastly improve the lives of people in our community and around the world.

While artificial replacements are commonly used in hips and knees, this is the first FDA approval of such a device for spinal discs. The CHARITÉ Artificial Disc is a high-tech device made of two metallic endplates and a movable high-density plastic center that, once implanted, is designed to help align the spine and preserve its ability to move. Spinal discs maintain the position of the spine and allow for the flexibility to bend and twist.

Lumbar spinal fusion surgery, a common surgical treatment for low back pain or degenerative disc disease, is often effective in reducing pain, but limits range of motion and may transfer extra stress to disc above and below the fusion site. More than 200, 000 of these procedures are performed each year in the U.S. This new procedure may offer an alternative to some patients.

As for Drewry, she’s looking forward to getting her life back. "I’m really looking forward to being able to work again," she added.

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