The Institute for Orthopaedic Enlightenment

OrthoFlash Full Citation - June 3, 2004



Mark Mintzer
Global Patient Network
8793 Nightingale Ave.
Fountain Valley, CA 92708
(714) 963-6554, (714) 593-8668 fax

As the FDA Considers Approval of the First Artificial Disc Replacement, Spine Patients Who Can’t Wait Seek Surgery Overseas

Fountain Valley, CA – June 2, 2004 – Today, the FDA is holding the final panel discussion of it’s Medical Advisory Committee as it considers approval of the first artificial lumbar disc replacement, the SB Charité III. Meanwhile, in Fountain Valley, spine patients are taking matters into their own hands. Instead of waiting for the slow FDA approval process, Americans have been traveling overseas to countries such as Germany and Austria to get the surgery they need, often at their own expense. Now many of these patients are helping others learn about their options.

On Saturday, June 5th, there will be an unprecedented gathering of spine patients from all over the US; Patients are coming from Minnesota, Florida, Washington State, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, and all over California. “We will be setting a world record for most artificial discs in one location, in people’s spines, not in boxes,” said Mark Mintzer, founder of Global Patient Network. The purpose of the meeting is for artificial disc replacement and spinal fusion patients to meet and share their real-world experiences with other spine patients who are looking into all of their options, including traveling overseas.

Dr. Anthony Yeung from Phoenix AZ, a leading spine surgeon and pioneer of endoscopic techniques will be speaking at the meeting. Dr Yeung is also involved in several emerging technologies, including non-fusion stabilization and disc nucleus replacement. “Evolving methodology in the diagnosis and treatment of chronic back pain and sciatica will revolutionize the way we treat back pain in the near future. Fusion will be only for deformity and instability, but disc replacement will also go through a period of where indications and techniques will be further refined” opines Dr Yeung.

"Patients coming to this luncheon will learn more in one afternoon, than they could learn in years of going to doctor after doctor, seeking a solution for their back pain.” Mintzer said, “Patients with 25 artificial discs of 2 types will be there. About ½ of these patients had to go to Europe for their surgery; the other ½ received theirs as part of the clinical trials in the US. In addition to the disc replacement patients, we’ll have many fusion patients, both successes and failures."

Mark Mintzer is the founder of a very active internet community where patients share research and provide support for one another as they navigate the waters of ‘ Back Pain Hell’. As the community grew and grew, he found himself spending most of his time helping spine patients from all over the world. In January, he founded Global Patient Network and is now working full time to help spine patients find solutions. “I’ve seen, first-hand what Global Patient Network is doing. Mark is really helping a lot of people and is filling a need that the medical community cannot address.” said Dr. Yeung.

“I function as a patient advocate, helping spine patients to understand what their options are and which issues are relevant.” Mintzer said. “I can assist in getting overseas opinions, streamlining the process for the patients AND the doctors. Even with FDA approval, many patients will still be forced to go overseas for surgery because of overly restrictive guidelines or in search of more experienced surgeons for more demanding surgeries."

Mr. Mintzer knows how valuable this information is. After two spine surgeries, he was still disabled. A comprehensive pain-management program including large doses of pain medications was of little help. In September of 2002, he traveled to Europe to have 2 SB Charité III artificial discs implanted by Dr. Willem Zeegers at the AlphaKlinik in Munich. "Six weeks after my surgery, I was completely off pain meds. This was after 2 years of being a shut-in and 3 straight years of opiates. I was afraid that I’d wind up with a morphine pump… what I got instead was a normal life! Just a few months after surgery, I was playing tennis, SCUBA diving, and playing soccer.” Mintzer said. “People in the internet community helped me for 2 years as I lived through my personal hell. Now I help them!”