Lifewatch: Ruptured Discs

WILMINGTON -- Ruptured discs are a common source of back and leg pain for thousands of people.

Doctors know how to fix the problem, but there is one step that isn't going quite right.  In this case it is what surgeons aren't doing during surgery that may be leading to extra pain down the road, but that may be changing.

"I like to do crazy things, like whitewater rafting, jumping out of airplanes," said Michelle Roche.

Years of adventure took a toll on her back.

"The pain was extremely sharp and I just could not get comfortable. The pain did not go away no matter what I did," said Roche.

Doctors suggested surgery to remove the herniated part of the disc in her back.

Before, the hole where part of the disc was removed was left open, leaving patients vulnerable for another rupture.  Now, surgeons are studying whether these tools hold the answer to closing that gap.

"Using very tiny instruments, you are able to pass the sutures into the ring of the disc that then allows you to criss-cross them and closes the tissue to act as a seal and then hopefully the scar tissue builds up then heals that defect," said Dr. Guyer.

Roche and Dr. Guyer are part of a two year trial of this technique known as the "x-close tissue repair system."

"The main thing is to determine whether or not we are lessening the recurrence rate, and hopefully we are, because when people have a recurrence, it usually comes out the previous hole that was there," said Dr. Guyer.

An MRI charted Roche's progress, and seven months after surgery things look good.

Dr. Guyer believes most patients who have a herniated disc are a good candidate for the technique.  The exception is people who have already had surgery.

Reported by Kristy Ondo