Dr. Paul C.
St. Joseph Medical Center
ADVANCEMENTS IN HEALTH CARE WINNER
Last fall marked 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.
It was then that the Food & Drug Administration approved the
Charité 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 Charité 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.
"When patients come to the office for their follow-up appointments
after disc replacement, the receptionist can tell which surgery they had
because they are moving in a more fluid manner and seem happier," McAfee
said. "The patients who had spinal fusion surgery are in more obvious
Just one month after receiving FDA approval, McAfee performed the first
two-level artificial disc surgery in the United States at St. Joseph. This
type of surgery allows patients with more than one diseased disc to be
treated in one procedure; almost one-third of patients who require surgery
suffer from multiple diseased discs.
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.
- Mark Smith, Baltimore Business Journal