A titanium implant the size and shape of a bullet could offer relief to thousands of patients with long-term back pain.
The experimental procedure, which is offered in clinical trials in four teaching hospitals of the NHS, implies that the device is screwed into the lower part of the patient's spine, where it supports and relieves pressure on the nerves.
Because the operation involves only a small incision in the side of the body, patients can go home the same day and need a minimum recovery time.
It is a welcome alternative to invasive spinal surgery, which can leave patients unable to walk for months.
A titanium implant the size and shape of a bullet could offer relief to thousands of patients with long-term back pain. Because the operation involves only a small incision in the side of the body, patients can go home the same day and need a minimum recovery time.
The device is designed to treat a condition called spinal stenosis: a narrowing of the spinal canal as a result of collapse of the vertebrae that leads to compression of the nerves and extreme pain in the lower back and legs, known as sciatica .
Causes include osteoarthritis, disc problems, tumors and spinal fractures.
While 95 percent of those over 50 experience stenosis, about 10 percent of the population will suffer serious problems.
Conventional treatment includes physiotherapy and analgesics, along with surgical lumbar decompression, which involves the bones and tissues that exert pressure on the nerves that are removed. This implies a two-day hospital stay.
But the symptoms often return after a few years if the bones disintegrate further.
The revolutionary bullet, called Minuteman, is coated with a special type of artificial calcium, which promotes the body's natural healing process. The bone on each side of the device finally fuses, closing gaps in the spine and providing long-term stability.
HEALTH HACKS: Sleep in a cold room to lose weight
It is not time to turn on the heater, but as the temperature drops, think twice before reaching the thermostat at night.
Studies have shown that sleeping in a room at approximately 18ºC increases the percentages of brown fat, a type that acts more like muscle and helps burn calories, according to a 2014 study at the US National Institutes of Health. UU
The investigation involved five men who slept in air-conditioned rooms with pajamas and light sheets for four months. After four weeks, they almost doubled their brown fat, increased their sensitivity to insulin and also experienced an increase in resting calorie burn.
"It would be naive to do this and expect to lose weight to the extent that it would die," said the researchers. "But we saw a measurable increase in glucose metabolism that could add up over time."
The Minuteman will be offered as part of a trial at NHS hospitals in Birmingham, Ipswich, Taunton and Leeds and has so far been conducted in 20 British patients and 950 worldwide.
Dr. Ganesan Baranidharan, consultant pain specialist at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, says: "The results are very promising, there is minimal postoperative pain and insignificant blood loss, the pain reduction achieved is as good as with decompression. "
After administering a local anesthetic in the back, a 2 cm incision is made in the side of the body. A series of tools are used to widen the space between the vertebrae.
The Minuteman is then inserted into the space and screwed into place, lifting the spine, creating more space for the spinal nerves and relieving pain immediately.
Low back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide, with one in ten men and almost one in five affected women. The condition represents seven percent of all GP appointments, and results in the loss of 4.1 million workdays per year. A third of those who suffer from sciatica still have symptoms one year after diagnosis.
Other causes of back pain include a slipped disc (or prolapse) in the spine that presses on an ankylosing nerve and spondylitis, an arthritis-like condition that causes swelling of the joints of the spine. Another is spondylolisthesis, when a bone in the spine comes out of its position.
Lawyer Lynda Greenwood, 64, of North Yorkshire, earlier this year became one of the first patients to have implanted the Minuteman device, after years of pain in the lower back and legs.
"I had sciatica, pain in my legs and I had several injections for the pain, but in the end the treatments reduced the pain but they did not address the cause of the problem, which was spinal stenosis," he says. "I was referred to Mr. Jake Timothy at Leeds General Nursing, who was conducting a clinical trial of the Minuteman.
"He decided that I was a suitable candidate to take part.
& # 39; At that time the pain was very bad. I remember walking with my dog the day before the operation and, thinking that this is so horrible, I will soon be in a wheelchair. It had become very debilitating.
"On the day of the operation, I limped to the Leeds hospital ready for treatment.
"I had general anesthesia and when I woke up, I knew it had worked, I had no pain, and I have not had any since." I was ecstatic.
"I can feel the device on my back, but I have no pain at all." I got up and quickly.
"If I had undergone conventional surgery there would have been a recovery period of three months, I could not be happier."
ASK A STUPID QUESTION: Why do bruises take on such incredible colors?
Vascular consultant surgeon Dr. John Scurr says: "Bruises occur when the external impact causes blood to accumulate under the skin.
"Initially, the bruises appear red because there is oxygen in the blood, but over time the blood becomes deoxygenated and acquires a blue or purple color.
"After a day or so, the blood is broken down into the different components found in the blood vessels, which are the components that have different colors.
"The color tone and the amount of visible color depends on the thickness of the skin and the composition of the components that exist in that particular collection of blood vessels."