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J Biomed Mater Res B Appl Biomater. 2012 Aug;100(6):1702-20. doi: 10.1002/jbm.b.32712. Epub 2012 May 7.

Nucleus pulposus replacement and regeneration/repair technologies: present status and future prospects.

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Department of Mechanical Engineering, The University of Memphis, Memphis, Tennessee 38152, USA.


Degenerative disc disease is implicated in the pathogenesis of many painful conditions of the back, chief among which is low back pain. Acute and/or chronic low back pain (A/CLBP) afflicts a large number of people, thus making it a major healthcare issue with concomitant cost ramifications. When conservative treatments for A/CLBP, such as bed rest, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy, prove to be ineffectual, surgical options are recommended. The most popular of these is discectomy followed by fusion. Although there are many reports of good to excellent outcomes with this method, there are concerns, such as long-term adverse biomechanical consequences to adjacent functional spinal unit(s). A surgical option that has been attracting much attention recently is replacement or regeneration/repair of the nucleus pulposus, an approach that holds the prospect of not compromising either mobility or function and causing no adjacent-level injury. There is a sizeable body of literature highlighting this option, comprising in vitro biomechanical studies, finite element analyses, animal-model studies, and limited clinical evaluations. This work is a review of this body of literature and is organized into four parts, with the focus being on replacement technologies, regeneration/repair technologies, and detailed expositions on 14 areas for future study. This review ends with a summary of the salient points made.

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