This article has been revised to provide the most accurate and up-to-date information.
*original publication date: December 1, 2019. Revised November 01, 2023
What is Fibrin?
The fibrin molecule is important for healing. After your body experiences an injury or trauma, fibrin is created when fibrinogen and thrombin combine in the bloodstream. Fibrinogen is a glycoprotein that circulates in high concentrations in the blood, and thrombin is an enzyme that works to activate and convert fibrinogen into fibrin. When an injury occurs, thrombin is released via the bloodstream to the specific area that experienced the trauma to initiate the activation of fibrinogen.
This activated material is composed of a number of long rod-shaped molecules that interlace with one another, forming a tight mesh. This mesh is able to surround the damaged tissues, helping to increase blood clotting and encourage wound healing.
This naturally occurring combination is able to be replicated outside the body and can be used for surgical purposes. This biologic substance can be separated from the blood stream and can be activated to produce a glue-like sealant. This FDA-approved sealant also has the capability to be used off label to seal cracks that form in the spinal discs, helping to reduce back pain and encourage wound healing.
The Inner Workings of Spinal Discs
The spinal column is an intricate part of the body, as the vertebrae are responsible for twisting, flexing, extending, and bending side to side. Between each of the vertebra lies an intervertebral disc. This disc is responsible for cushioning the spine as it moves in certain directions, and it also ensures that the spine stays mobile.
Each disc is composed of an inner and outer layer. The inner layer, called the nucleus pulposus, is a gel-like substance that contains a number of proteins and water molecules. If these proteins leak out, it can cause swelling, discomfort, and tenderness in the surrounding tissues as well as cause inflammatory irritation to the spinal nerves located immediately next to the disc. The outer layer of the disc, the annulus fibrosis, has a more rigid construction. This outer layer can be cracked, which can allow the inner gel to leak.
The cells within the discs are responsible for holding water, which helps to provide the necessary cushioning to the spine. With age, these cells begin to lose their functionality, the discs begin to dry out, and the discs can begin to break down. The spinal discs do not receive a large amount of blood flow, making it hard for them to heal.
Why Sealing the Discs is Necessary
Your intervertebral discs start to break down and can even collapse with age, so it is important to maintain as much of their function as possible. Because these discs do not receive a large amount of blood to encourage tissue healing and rebuilding, utilizing a sealant is an effective way to minimize and slow disc degeneration. The sealant can help to maintain the proper shape of the disc helping to prevent the disc from breaking down again in the future.
The Benefits of Fibrin Sealants on Discs
Since the sealants function similarly to that of glue, this biologic substance can have many benefits on intervertebral discs. This sealant can simply be injected into both the inner and outer layers of the disc using a needle.
These sealants can fill any fissures or cracks that have formed in the annulus fibrosis to prevent future leaks, which can help to reduce back pain caused by the leaking fluid. It can also provide extra cushioning inside the inner layer, allowing for increased comfort and decreased chronic pain.
Fibrin sealants also contain healing properties, as seen in other parts of the body, which can carry over into the discs as well. They can help to enhance tissue restoration and can help to stimulate tissue cross-linking and binding. This healing also utilizes non-inflammatory cytokines, which ensures that inflammation is kept to a minimum.
Bringing It All Together
More than one in four adults in the United States suffers from back pain, and this condition can limit your everyday activities and quality of life. Getting your chronic pain under control can be difficult, but fibrin sealants provide a great option that can benefit a number of different individuals. Sealants, like Tisseel, utilize fibrinogen and thrombin to help keep discs strong and functional, which can help maintain more water in the discs and prevent the internal fluid from leaking out, which decreases inflammation and sensitivity. Discseel is the name of a non-surgical procedure that injects Tisseel and can be a great option if you suffer from chronic back pain caused by degenerative disc disease. Find out if Discseel is right for you.