Ulf Fernstrom (1915-1985) and his Contributions to the Development of Artificial Disc Replacements: A Historical Vignette

Fisahn C, Burgess B, Iwanaga J, Chapman JR, Oskouian RJ, Tubbs RS.Ulf Fernstrom (1915-1985) and his Contributions to the Development of Artificial Disc Replacements: A Historical Vignette.World Neurosurg. 2016 Nov 5. pii: S1878-8750(16)31136-6. doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2016.10.135.

ABSTRACT

INTRODUCTION:

Artificial disc replacements, which serve the function of separating vertebrae to allow for proper spinal alignment, can help treat debilitating low back pain in patients who have failed other conservative methods of treatment. Ulf Fernstrom was the pioneer of artificial disc replacement, and his contribution in the way of Fernstrom "Balls" dramatically altered spinal surgery and technique by demonstrating the proper technique and implant that should be utilized for areas requiring motion in many planes.

HISTORY OF THE ARTIFICIAL DISC:

A Swedish surgeon, Ulf Fernstrom, created his artificial disc inspired by the movement of the hip and knee joints. His implants attempted to restore disc spacing and articulation in patients who had failed conservative measures of treatment. Fernstrom Balls were the first implants of their kind and represent the first attempt at artificial disc replacement. However, many surgeons and researchers questioned Fernstrom Balls, claiming that their lack of elastic properties could potentially damage patients.

CONCLUSION:

Of the wide range of implants currently on the market for the intervertebral disc space, all designs and applications of products stem from the initial discovery made by Fernstrom thus making him a pioneer in disc replacement.