The Future of Spine Care: Highlights from the NASS 33rd Annual Meeting
An Eye Towards Innovation
Every year, the North American Spine Society (NASS) organizes a large convention and conference that brings together researchers and doctors from all over the US and the world to exchange ideas and discuss their work. It’s also an opportunity for medical companies to present their latest wares and advances. This year’s event took place in Los Angeles, CA and it was as vibrant and dynamic as ever. Innovation in the field is ongoing, and it seems the future is bright.
A couple technologies garnered special attention because of their potential to revolutionize how doctors take on spine issues. Here’s a quick roundup of the buzz from NASS’s 33rd Meeting:
3D Printed Implants
Anyone paying attention knows that 3D printing has the potential to revolutionize a wide range of industries, and medicine is certainly one. This year’s meeting featured a number of companies that received FDA approval for the manufacture of printed spinal implants. One company, 4WEB Medical, for instance, has a device that creates implants for use in the major spinal fusion operations: posterior lumbar interbody fusion (PLIF), anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF), transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF), cervical interbody fusion (CIF) and lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF) surgery. 
4WEB Medical wasn’t the only company touting this approach. RTI Surgical showcased a range of 3D printed cages made of a tough polymer to be used in a number of spine surgery approaches. The cages, part of the TETRAfuse 3D Technology line, can not only be fabricated to exact specifications, but they promise to be long-lasting and easily incorporated into the spinal column.  Clearly, this technology has already made a lasting impact on these treatments.
Expandable Interbody Cages
Interbody cages have been used in spine surgery since 1996 to help decompress the nerve and retain proper height after fusion treatments. Among the leaders in creating the next generation of these devices is Integrity Implants, which presented its FLAREHAWK expandable spinal cage.  Unlike traditional ones, this cage can adjust based on height, width, and amount of lordosis (curvature of the low spine). In addition, these cages have an improved “footprint,” and can more easily be grafted into position.
Other companies also presented their innovative cages. Notably, CoreLink’s FLXfit15 received praise because of its ability to bend and expand up to 15 degrees. It’s also articulated, and basically sets a new standard in the industry when it comes to flexibility of these implants. 3D printing is also starting to play a role here as another company, K2M presented its interbody cage that can be fabricated in this way.
Robotics & Surgical Navigation
The impact of technology, of course, goes beyond just the fabrication and features of implants. Surgical advances were also on display at NASS, and there was much excitement about the use of navigation systems to improve surgical outcomes. This means, basically, the incorporation of computers into surgical planning and imaging. Furthermore, this means more accurately guiding surgical tools to where they need to go in real time.
These approaches are newer, but initial studies show significant improvements in surgical outcomes at least in the short-term. Among the companies breaking ground with surgical navigation is NuVasive, which unveiled the Pulse integrated system. This is the first of its kind specifically designed for spine surgery.  No doubt, there will be more research and innovation when it comes to this approach to surgery.
Striding Towards the Future
Spine surgery today isn’t what it was 20 years ago, and, as we can see here, it’s going to continue to change shape and evolve. What this means for those with back pain is that outcomes are going to keep getting better. With more accurate and precise diagnosis and surgery, the impact of this treatment will grow smaller and the work will become more easily tolerated. It’s an exciting time in the surgical field—3D printing and computer assisted navigation are already changing the landscape—and there’s no doubt that beneficial advances will continue.
Employing the latest and best in surgical techniques and technologies, the team at North American Spine prides itself in ensuring positive outcomes for all of their patients. Backpain need not be a constant presence in your life; with this medical team on your side, it can be a thing of your past. Learn more about what these experts do by calling 469-638-0208 today!
- “New Spine Technology Trends Featured At NASS 2018 – Spinal Surgery News”. 2018. Spinal Surgery News. Accessed December 15 2018. http://www.spinalsurgerynews.com/2018/11/new-spine-technology-trends-featured-at-nass-2018/34948.