OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- On Monday, a man from Iola, Kansas, became the first person in the U.S. to get a new implant that could make spinal fusion easier for patients. The device was invented by his Overland Park Neurosurgeon, Dr. Harold Hess.
Ray Shannon is ready to get rid of the pain he's had shooting down his leg for months. He describes the pain in one word.
"Ouch," Shannon said, laughing.
The pain comes from slippage of his spine. Bone is rubbing on bone. Shannon is having fusion surgery at Blue Vally Hospital.
"It's a much quicker operation. You haven't cut the muscle, so it's a much quicker recovery. You've only dilated the muscle," said Dr. Hess.
Dr. Hess goes in through a one-inch incision in the side and uses rods to spread the muscle and reach the spine. When he's there, he places a device he invented. It was a nine-year project. The device is called Minuteman G3, and his company is Spinal Simplicity.
The device has bone product inside it.
"Then once the wings are deployed, the bone product comes into touch with this bone and this bone and eventually becomes solid," he said, pointing to a model of the spine.
That creates the fusion. Dr. Hess's device got clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in January, but an earlier generation has been used in some European countries for more than three years.
"Which is similar to this product with very good outcomes," he said.
Dr. Hess claims patients can leave the hospital the next day, and recovery is much shorter and easier than with other fusion surgeries.
Before his procedure, Shannon wasn't thinking much about being the first patient in the U.S.
"I'm not highly excitable," he said.
He's just looking forward to being pain-free.
Dr. Hess says the procedure is for people whose pain goes away when they're sitting or leaning forward. He also says it's a good option for people who aren't healthy enough to withstand standard spinal fusion.