An Alternative to Invasive Spinal Fusions

Dr. Kenneth Pettine Pioneers the Coflex Interlaminar Implant

Written by Kandace Stolz

The increased dominance of back pain and swelling brought on by years of an active lifestyle takes a significant toll on our bodies. As we age, we learn how to adapt to the quirks and kinks our bodies develop: we either accept our fate or fight the battle of aging.  For grandparents wanting to enjoy their golden years in the presence of their beloved grandchildren, the process of adjusting to a body’s needs can be depressive and downright restrictive.

Ed Westwater was not going to lie down and let aging rage over him. For years he suffered from aching back muscles and inflammation. His injuries had developed over time and were caused from years of coaching, playing, and participating in major life events. He didn’t want to miss a second of the life he shared with his children as they grew. For him, the enjoyment of life stopped when he could not play catch with his little league grandson or teach his granddaughter the basic swim strokes because of his back pain.

Years in which dealing with the pain became too much lead to several therapies and for the short term chiropractic care, physical therapy, and acupuncture gave him relief. Unfortunately, Ed realized his pain was not dissipating enough and less relief was achieved from these therapies as he aged. His doctor suggested seeking the help of a renowned Orthopedic Spine Surgeon, Dr. Kenneth Pettine.

Dr. Kenneth Pettine is the founder of Rocky Mountain Associates in Orthopedic Medicine and The Spine Institute in Johnstown, Colorado.  He has set the standard for spine surgeons with his experience, research, and innovative mindset to provide cutting-edge procedures to pain sufferers. Patients travel from all over the world to consult with Dr. Pettine and his staff on the most recent revolutionary techniques.

After a comprehensive review of Ed’s MRI and Xrays, he learned his fate. He had significant spinal stenosis, which is a condition where the spine narrows and causes a compression on the nerves and discs. In raw terms, it feels like the spine is being squeezed by a wrench while the nerves are entwined in the process. Gravity becomes the major enemy of the patient, and the course is set for degenerative disc disease. Loss of fluid to the discs causes the space between vertebrae to decrease, and the spine begins to collapse and self-fuse.

The most common solution for this condition involves an invasive surgical fusion to eliminate the discomfort. Unfortunately, fusion also limits movement within the area of injury and includes uncomfortable hardware. When given the option of surgical fusion, Ed Westwater declined: “I wasn’t willing to forego my mobility. I was trying to regain movement and lose the pain. A spinal fusion made little sense to me and I wanted to offer my grandchildren more of my time and energy.” Dr. Pettine offered a ground-breaking alternative. Ed was told that he was an ideal candidate for the newly advanced Coflex® Interlaminar Implant.

“The Coflex Interlaminar implant offers patients an outpatient surgery that has been proven to have better clinical results than a fusion with screws and rods,” explains Dr. Pettine. The coflex® interlaminar implant is a minimally invasive, motion preserving interlaminar stabilization device for the treatment of moderate to severe spinal stenosis.  This device fits between the encroaching discs, allowing enough space to stop the decompression process by using a pliable insert. The Spine Institute and Dr. Kenneth Pettine participated in the pioneering FDA approved study.

Their patients experienced remarkable results. Coflex® patients spent 40% less time in the hospital. Surgical time was less than an hour (surgical fusion procedures can last up to three hours). Most astonishingly, 85% of patients maintained a higher range of motion two years following the procedure compared to fused patients, whose motion was significantly less. Additionally, the chronic pain that had been caused by the compression was nearly obsolete.

After careful consideration and review, Ed decided to try the Coflex Implant. He felt immediate relief from pain while still in the hospital: “I walked out of the hospital only feeling the pain of the small incision. It was a tremendous difference.” The outpatient surgery is simple and less invasive. The recovery period is drastically shorter compared to a spinal fusion. Ed returned to normal living within a week. Months later, he is playing with his grandchildren, teaching swimming lessons in the pool, and enjoying batting practice with his grandson.

Had it not been for the progressive approach of Dr. Pettine and his colleagues, Ed’s mobility may have been severely limited. For the right candidate, the Coflex® Interlaminar Implant can be a life changing experience.  “Anytime we can minimize the surgical procedure, we eliminate risks,” shares Dr. Pettine and he adds, “Friends don’t let friends get fused.” thanks Dr. Pettine for his blog. Please keep in mind the information in Dr. Pettine's blog is provided for general information, is not intended to provide medical advice, and does not replace the medical advice, diagnosis or treatment a patient receives when consulting their healthcare provider. does not endorse any particular device, treatment or technique mentioned in blog posts.