Chemonucleolysis: Alternative Treatment For Herniated Discs

A medical treatment first developed in a laboratory some 30 years ago is gaining new recognition as a safe alternative to back surgery in many cases.

In the early 1960s, Dr. Lyman Smith, an orthopaedic surgeon from Illinois, began investigating the ability of chymopapain, a natural enzyme derived from the papaya plant, to relieve the back and leg pain (sciatica) caused by slipped or herniated disc. When the enzyme was injected into the nucleus of the disc, Smith found, it broke down and partially liquefied the jelly-like material that was exerting painful pressure on the nerve root.

Dr. Smith injected the first human patients in 1963. Clinical trials lasted 12 years and involved 75 investigators, predominantly orthopaedic surgeons. Of the 16,985 patients injected during this period, about 80 percent found relief from sciatic pain.

Today, chemonucleolysis -- the name given to the process of injecting chymopapain into a herniated disc -- has been demonstrated to be about 80 percent effective for the over 400,000 patients worldwide who have received it since 1963. By comparison, laminectomy, or surgical removal of the lumbar disc, has been shown to result in three times as many deaths, 10 times as many neurologic complications and 16 times as many post-operative infections as chemonucleolysis. Surgery in many cases results in the failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS), creating long-term disability at tremendous cost for the patient and society.

According to the experts at Knoll Pharmaceutical Company, who market chymopapain under the brand name CHYMODIACTIN®, chemonucleolysis is safe and effective when performed by skilled surgeons on carefully screened patients. In some cases, the response is immediate, though many patients may experience back pain, stiffness and soreness for a short time. Special exercise performed at home can help. If the treatment is not successful, it would not jeopardize the success of later surgery.

To find out whether it could be right for you, see your doctor. If you or your doctor would like more information call 1-800-304-7440.(NAPSI)

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