Visiting doctor takes part in unique study

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 13, 2001

The chance to take part in a rare trial treatment for back pain has made its way to Natchez. Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jorge Isaza of Baton Rouge, La., who is seeing patients once a month at Dr. Rus Fairbanks’ office in Natchez.

The surgery involves a new artificial disc replacement for degenerative disc disease in the spinal cord. The new disc is made of plastic and metal with teeth to anchor the disc to the vertebrae.

&uot;Degenerative disc disease is a very common problem,&uot; Isaza said. &uot;The main problem is we don’t have a good answer.&uot;

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The usual method of surgical treatment involves removal of the disc fusion of the vertebrae above and below it. But that surgery limits movement and takes six months to a year to heal.

The new method takes about six weeks to heal, Isaza said. Then patients take part in rehabilitation.

&uot;There’s a dramatic difference between six months and six weeks,&uot; he said.

To qualify for the study, patients must be between 18 and 60 years old, and they cannot have osteoporosis. The painful disc must be in the lower back, as well.

&uot;The idea is to do the patients that have problems with back pain and need to return to heavy jobs that involve lifting,&uot; Isaza said.

The study will be finished in about four to six months, Isaza said, but patients will be followed for at least the next two years.

&uot;Everyone’s going to be looking at what’s happening with them and what will happen for 10 years,&uot; he said. &uot;We would like to follow them as long as we can.&uot;

Isaza has five patients so far, and he started the treatments last summer.

&uot;Most are very active and very pleased with the procedure,&uot; he said. &uot;Overall, they do much better than other patients.&uot;

Isaza said coming to Natchez to treat patients creates an advantage for both him and his patients.

&uot;It’s easier for me to come here to see 20 to 30 patients than for them to travel to Baton Rouge,&uot; he said.

And he appreciates the support and office space from Fairbanks, who was a classmate of his. &uot;Otherwise it would be very expensive for me to come up here,&uot; he said.

Although Isaza cannot perform the surgeries in Natchez, he can see patients for follow-up care here.

For information about the study, potential patients can call 1-888-553-3689.