The Spine is Growing

June 26, 2008

Our other special focus this week is on orthopedics. We spoke to analyst Ben Andrew, of William Blair and Company, who spoke to us a little bit about the area he covers in this spaces: the spine.

Andrew considers the spine one of the faster growing segments in health care. Here’s why:

Mr. Andrew: With the aging of the population, roughly 50% of the people over the age of 50 have low back pain and actually go to the doctor looking to get treatment for that at some point. Many of them are looking for an intervention that can alleviate their pain quickly as opposed to the alternative, which would be physical rehabilitation, exercise and stretching, and other more traditional care.

We also talked with analyst John Putnam, who also focuses on the spine space, about some of these surgeries, and their appeal:

Mr. Putnam: Traditionally, if you had back problems and you had to have a spine fusion, most of the time the surgery has been either from the front or from the back, but it involved major incisions, so if it was done from the front, all the organs have to be moved to be able to get to the spine. So it’s really a pretty invasive surgery. The minimally invasive surgery that we are talking about here is the access through the side (it’s called lateral). This has really revolutionized spine surgery to a great extent. We are very early in the growth of this market. It’s just a better way of doing things. There is less trauma to the patient, less blood loss, quicker recovery, people are up the next day instead of being in the hospital for five days, or they are discharged in just a couple of days and, as I said, the recovery is a lot faster.

For the full interview with Mr. Andrew, including a complete overview of this space and stock picks, click here.

For more on minimally invasive spinal surgery, and the opportunity it presents to investors, click here.