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Using a sponge to secure stability and relieve back pain. It’s no ordinary sponge — it stays in the body after surgery. Come with us into the OR and see it in action.

It doesn’t look like much, but this tiny lattice work – called Osteosponge — has powerful potential. It’s a bone graft taken from a donor cadaver and treated so it’s safe for transplant, yet its living stem cells have been preserved.

Dr. Daniel Laich, Swedish Covenant Hospital Neurosurgeon: “There are cells within that that help bone grow, that help bony defects grow together. We are so amazingly made that our body can recognize the structure and say, ‘Wow, this is bone. I have to grow it,’ or ‘This is incomplete bone. I have to fill it in.’ It’s just opened up another reason for bone donation, for organ donation, bone being one of those because we can do so much with it now.”

On the day we visited Swedish Covenant Hospital neurosurgeon Dr..Daniel Laich, he was performing a cervical fusion – removing a damaged disc and rebuilding the bony structure in a patient’s spine.

Dr. Daniel Laich: “If that disc has degenerated or herniated or collapsed down, we take it out, we put in a device to replace it to maintain this curve and this curve.”

But first, it’s injected with the patient’s own blood – another bone-growing boost.

Dr. Daniel Laich: “If I stick a needle in a bone marrow spot in the patient and draw out some of those cells, the patient’s own stem cells, I inject that into the matrix, the bone graft, and that will lead to a faster fusion, faster growth. The device goes in and that bone product goes right in that device.”

Dr. Daniel Laich: “The device goes in and that bone product goes right in that device.  On x-rays you’ll see the device and black and over time you’ll see that turn white … it will look from one piece of bone all the way to another. It will allow the symmetry or balance of the body to be re-established quicker, and that will lead to a quicker recovery and a long-term goal without pain.”

In addition to use for back problems, the Osteosponge can be used after traumatic brain injuries or stroke to help rebuild bone in the skull — and for facial bone reconstruction after an accident.