A high point in the distinguished career of Dr. Paul C. McAfee, chief of spinal reconstructive surgery at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson and director of the Maryland Spinal Reconstructive Fellowship Program for the past 20 years was when the Food & Drug Administration approved the Charite Lumbar Artificial Disc Replacement, which is used to treat patients with chronic lower back pain and degenerative disease. McAfee was the lead investigator of the five-year study for the device.
Previously, lumbar spinal fusion surgery, which limits motion and places stress on the adjacent spinal discs, was the most common surgical treatment of degenerative disc disease. It has been predicted that 20 percent of spinal fusion cases will be replaced by artificial disc surgery within the next two years.
McAfee's study demonstrated that patients who received implants with the Charite disc improved more quickly, were discharged from the hospital a half-day earlier, and had less pain and function scores statistically superior to those of fusion patients.
Disc replacement is not the first breakthrough for McAfee: He also invented a cervical disc replacement prosthesis and procedure used in 37 countries to treat patients suffering from severe neck pain, and he invented and tested spinal rods for scoliosis and fractures for the National Institutes of Health. He currently serves as a consultant for over 20 spinal instrumentation and pharmaceutical companies.