Historically speaking, there are two ways damaged discs are surgically treated.
The first way is to remove the damaged disc and then fuse the vertebrae above and below together. Called spinal fusion, this procedure can be very effective but it sometimes has its limitations.
The second way to treat the damaged disc is by replacing it with an artificial disc made of metal, plastic, or a combination of both. This procedure, too, can be effective but artificial discs can wear out over time and need to be replaced.
A third and more advanced method is one that Dr. Shen employs in nearly all surgeries he performs for damaged or herniated discs called disc regeneration. Disc regeneration is a form of regenerative medicine, which according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is “the process of creating living, functional tissue to repair or replace tissue or organ function due to age, disease, damage, or congenital defects.”
In the case of treating damaged discs, Dr. Shen uses disc regeneration in conjunction with endoscopic procedures to addresses the shortcomings of both spinal fusion and disc replacement. The goal of treatment is focused on either augmenting or replacing degenerate disc tissue to re-establish healthy disc function.
Disc regeneration harnesses the body’s own ability to heal and boosts it in a very powerful and effective way using stem cells harvested from the patient’s own bone marrow.
Dr. Shen will extract your stem cells using a very simple procedure and then process it using an advanced centrifugation method. During the endoscopic procedure, Dr. Shen will then transplant the stem cells back into your body where they will integrate with the targeted area and begin secreting essential growth factors to facilitate reformation. Stem cells then start dividing to help restore or repair the damaged area. Because your own cells are used, there is no risk of immune rejection.
The appeal of using disc regeneration is that, unlike non-biological materials that can wear with time, cell-generated tissues retain their capacity for remodeling and growth.
In the case of a spinal fusion, Dr. Shen uses an endoscope to insert a tricortical bone graft to form the foundation upon which to create a solid bridge. He then implants the patient’s stem cells into the graft to form a solid fusion.