Clinical Trials for Degenerative Disc Disease

There are many clinical trials studying degenerative disc disease.  Degenerative disc disease is not technically a “disease” but a process of deterioration of the spine’s intervertebral discs.  It is age-related and may begin to affect a person during their 40s.  Previous spinal trauma, injury, and wear and tear can contribute to the development of degenerative disc disease.  Much has been learned from previous research studies about how degenerative disc disease begins and progresses.  For example, as we age, our cellular metabolism slows down.  Old cells are not replaced as quickly as during our youth.  In the spine, this causes subtle changes in disc elasticity, strength, shape, and height that can lead to a cascade of disc-related problems, such as bulging and herniation.
Portrait of senior man thinking about something outdoorsIs participation in a clinical trial for degenerative disc disease or its treatment something you have considered?  For many patients, it is a way to obtain advanced treatment at a leading institution while contributing to research that benefits medicine.

Am I a Candidate?

The first step is to find out if you are qualified to participate in an actively recruiting clinical trial for degenerative disc disease.  This involves learning about a study’s inclusion and exclusion criteria.  Inclusion and exclusion criteria are the standards the clinical trial coordinator or investigator applies to determine your eligibility for enrollment.  

Sample Criteria for a Degenerative Disc Disease Clinical Trial

The criteria use specific medical terminology to describe the type of patient the study requires.  For example, the criteria may include a specific diagnosis (eg, Grade I spondylolisthesis), involvement of two spinal levels (eg, L4-L5 and L5-S1), gender and age range (eg, Men age 50+), and no prior lumbar surgery.  It is important to understand that you may be a qualified candidate, but be excluded (exclusion criteria) because of a co-existing disease such as diabetes or osteoporosis. 

Patient Safety and Efficacy of Degenerative Disc Disease Clinical Trials

Clinical trials for degenerative disc disease, like other human research studies, focus on patient safety and efficacy. That is one reason your previous and current medical history is important, including use of vitamins, other supplements and herbal remedies.  You will most likely be asked to give a full medical history before being considered for a clinical trial for degenerative disc disease.