ECRI Forecasts Greater Usage Of Disc Nucleus Replacement For Degenerative Disc Disease Than Total Artificial Disc Technology

PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa., June 21 /PRNewswire/ -- ECRI (, a nonprofit health services research and patient safety agency with more than 35 years of experience in healthcare technology assessment, recently published its perspectives and predictions on the potential impact of two new treatments for severe chronic back pain from degenerative disc disease.

Both treatments -- disc nucleus replacement technology and total artificial disc technology -- are being developed as alternatives to traditional spinal fusion surgery, which requires a bone graft and can reduce spinal column movement and disc function. Disc nucleus replacement technology uses minimally invasive surgical techniques to replace only the nucleus of the disc with a prosthesis, preserving the function of the surrounding tissue. Total artificial disc technology involves the surgical removal and replacement of the entire damaged or diseased disc with a prosthetic implant, and the procedure cannot be done with minimally invasive techniques.

In its Health Technology Forecast(TM), an online horizon-scanning resource for healthcare executives, ECRI predicts that disc nucleus replacement technology is likely to be used more extensively than total artificial disc technology because of its potential to be performed using a minimally invasive approach. Although neither procedure has yet received U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) marketing approval, one artificial disc was recommended for marketing approval by an FDA advisory committee in early June 2004 and is expected to receive FDA approval by midsummer. However, when and if disc nucleus replacement receives FDA marketing approval, it may prove to be substantially less expensive than either full disc replacement or traditional spinal fusion surgery. This is because nucleus replacement is minimally invasive whereas the other procedures are open surgeries and can cost $40,000 to $50,000. Disc nucleus replacement, according to ECRI's Forecast, is also expected to diffuse more rapidly and more widely than artificial discs because it has fewer contraindications.

Forecast reports covering degenerative disc disease and many other topics are provided to members of ECRI's Health Technology Assessment Information Service (HTAIS) and Emerging Technology Services (ETS). Both memberships combine horizon-scanning resources with health technology assessments that analyze the best evidence available today. ECRI's Forecast identifies healthcare technologies -- including drugs, devices, procedures, information systems, and services -- that are currently in development or are expected to emerge soon from the research pipeline into the marketplace. ECRI's technology assessment reports give hospitals, health systems, and health plans guidance on emerging technologies. The information is also used by many payers as part of their decision-making process for formulating medical policies.

For more information about accessing ECRI's new Health Technology Forecast through membership in HTAIS or ETS, contact ECRI by mail at 5200 Butler Pike, Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462-1298, USA; by telephone at +1 (610) 825-6000, ext. 5170; by e-mail at; or by fax at +1 (610) 834-1275. ECRI's European office can be contacted at, ECRI's Asia- Pacific office can be contacted at, and ECRI's Middle Eastern office can be contacted at

ECRI (, a nonprofit international health services research agency, is a Collaborating Center of the World Health Organization and an Evidence-based Practice Center as designated by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. ECRI provides information and technical assistance to the healthcare community to support safe and cost-effective patient care.

Strictly enforced conflict-of-interest rules help to ensure an unbiased approach to projects. These rules prohibit investments in or gifts from the medical device and pharmaceutical industries and apply to ECRI and all staff members. Staff members' income tax returns are audited for compliance with these rules, and ECRI does not accept advertising.


CONTACT: Media contact: Laurie Menyo, +1-610-825-6000, ext. 5310, or forpurchasing information: Don Cummins, +1-610-825-6000, ext. 5170, both of ECRI

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