TLC Neurosurgeon Betsy Grunch, MD, FAANS first in Georgia to perform artificial disc replacement with new technology

activL Artificial Disc Provides Patients with Movement Closer to the Natural Biomechanics 
of the Healthy Human Spine so that they can return to their normal activities

The Longstreet Clinic, P.C.
 (TLC) announces the successful implantation of a new artificial spinal disc replacement device by TLC Neurosurgeon Betsy Grunch, MD, FAANS and Vascular surgeon Dr. James Reeves of Northeast Georgia Physicians Group Vascular Center.

Grunch and Reeves became the first surgeons in Georgia to perform this type of surgery using the Aesculap Implant Systems activL® Artificial Disc with Intelligent Motion Technology™. activL Artificial Disc is designed for use in the lumbar spine and is intended to treat patients with chronic back pain caused by one-level degenerative disc disease. In contrast with other treatments such as spinal fusion, activL Artificial Disc is designed to more closely mirror the natural movement of the healthy human spine following surgery. “We are proud to be on the cutting edge for treatment of chronic lower back pain. I believe that artificial disc replacement is the future of treatment for the right type of patients with severe back pain,” said Dr. Grunch.

Zach Philyaw, a Cleveland, Georgia career firefighter has been dealing with chronic lower back pain that prevented him from fully enjoying life for the past 20 years. “I had an injury to my disc that has been causing me pain for as long as I can remember,” said Philyaw. Philyaw had tried numerous non-surgical treatments but struggled to find relief to his pain. He wanted to avoid fusion surgery, the most common treatment for his condition. “Other surgeons told me that I was a candidate for spinal fusion but had not mentioned disc replacement as an alternative,” said Philyaw, “It seemed to me like a lot of people that have fusion surgery have to have more surgeries later on.”

Upon meeting Philyaw, Grunch knew that he was the right candidate for a motion preserving disc replacement instead of fusion. “Given his profession and active lifestyle, I wanted to preserve motion in his spine if at all possible. Fusion would have been an alternative, but it creates additional stress to the adjacent levels in the spine and would have put him at risk for problems at those levels in the future.”

“Unlike fusion, artificial discs create much more healthy motion for our patients, leading to less pain and better outcomes.” Dr. Betsy Grunch and Dr. James Reeves performed the surgery on July 7, 2016 at Northeast Georgia Medical Center – Georgia’s #1 Hospital (CareChex®) and one of the nation’s 100 Top Hospitals (Truven Health Analytics®).

Clinical studies for activL Artificial Disc have demonstrated increased range of motion, lower pain scores and a faster return-to-work rate. The replacement features cobalt chromium endplates which affix to the patient’s vertebrae with bone-sparing spikes for initial stabilization. It is the first lumbar artificial disc with a mobile ultra high molecular weight polyethylene core that supports both controlled translational and rotational movement similar to the movement of the healthy lumbar spine. It offers the widest range of footprints and heights, including an 8.5 mm design, which is the lowest height construct available on the market.

The activL Artificial Disc is indicated for reconstruction of the disc at one level (L4-L5 or L5-S1) following single-level discectomy in skeletally mature patients with symptomatic degenerative disc disease (DDD) with no more than Grade I spondylolisthesis at the involved level. DDD is defined as discogenic back pain with degeneration of the disc confirmed by patient history, physical examination and radiographic studies. The activL Artificial Disc is implanted using an anterior retroperitoneal approach. Patients receiving this replacement surgery should have failed at least six months of non-operative treatment prior to implantation of the device.

For more information about our Neurosurgery team or to schedule an appointment, visit our website at or call us at 770-533-7288.
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