The Foundation’s Research Was Featured at ISASS 2020!

A Commentary on Research Featured at International Society for the Advancement of Spine Surgery (ISASS) 2020

The International Society for the Advancement of Spine Surgery held its 2020 Annual Meeting last week in sunny San Juan, Puerto Rico. The National Spine Health Foundation was represented by Graduate Research Fellow Katie Gorick, who interviewed a number of clinicians and scientists regarding their research and thoughts on various discussion sessions. Katie was joined by Dr. Colin Haines, Dr. Niteesh Bharara, and PA Thao Allen, all from one of the Foundation’s Centers of Excellence, Virginia Spine Institute. In collaboration with the Foundation, Dr. Haines and Dr. Bharara presented the results of some exciting research studies, including the use of bone marrow concentrate-derived mesenchymal stem cells for treatment of low back pain, as well as the use of rhBMP-2 in cervical arthrodesis for patients with cervical degenerative disc disease. The conference, which consisted of three days of short research talks on a range of topics, featured top doctors and scientists in the field of spinal surgery from around the world.

Among the many topics of research throughout the conference were several sessions on minimally invasive and endoscopic surgical techniques, which involve less disruption and trauma to the surrounding tissue, minimal scarring, and often reduced hospital stays. There was also discussion of robotics and image-guided navigation approaches to spine surgery, which aim to improve hardware placement accuracy while keeping radiation exposure to the patient and physicians to a minimum. The use of biologic adjuvants, including the protein rhBMP-2, was also discussed extensively. While previously there has been concern over potential side effects with the use of BMP-2 in certain fusion contexts, new research, including that conducted at The Foundation and VSI, is demonstrating that using the protein in very low doses, in combination with steroids to minimize inflammation, helps to prevent these side effects and can significantly improve fusion rates. Mesenchymal stem cell injections are also gaining traction as a popular therapeutic approach and have been shown to improve symptoms of low back pain without the need for potentially invasive and traumatic surgery. 

ISASS President Jack Zigler kindly agreed to an interview with the Katie and described the missions of the ISASS organization. One of these core missions is educating physicians on the latest cutting-edge research in the field of spine surgery so that they can use up-to-date data in their medical decision-making, optimizing treatments for individual patients. The second mission is patient advocacy, by driving progress on the insurance front. By presenting extensive clinical data on the safety and efficacy of various surgical devices and techniques, ISASS is able to push insurance companies to see that these approaches are worth covering and reimbursing, so that patients have access to the best possible options for treatment.

We interviewed over a dozen different clinicians, asked a number of them if they had a message for patients. One response was echoed by nearly everyone we asked: “You don’t HAVE to struggle with back pain – go see your doctor and start finding a treatment plan that will work for you!”

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2019 Graduate Research Fellow
Katie Gorick