Artificial Disc Replacement
Artificial disc replacement is a procedure used to treat damaged spinal column discs due to a herniated disc, bone spurs, spondylosis or radiculopathy to relieve pinched nerves causing pain that has been unrelieved by conservative measures.
During the procedure the damaged disc is removed and the area around the bone is cleaned of any debris. The bone is also filed to make room for the artificial disc. The disc is then inserted into the space. Once secure the soft tissues of the neck are in place the incision is closed.
The artificial cervical disc replacement has taken the place (in most cases) of cervical disc fusion. When a fusion is done the area that was fused is no longer able to move. With an artificial disc replacement the spine is able to move normally.
What is an Artificial Disc Replacement?
This procedure is not done on the lumbar spine as it holds more weight than the cervical spine and can cause additional problems for the patient in the future.
Artificial disc replacement is a procedure used to treat damaged spinal column discs due to a herniated disc, spondylosis or radiculopathy to relieve pinched nerves causing pain that has been unrelieved by conservative measures.
The surgeon makes a small incision in the front of the neck (anterior approach) to gain access to the spine. The surgeon will then remove the damaged disc and/or any damaged bone or bone spurs compressing the spinal nerve. Once the area between the vertebrae is clean then surgeon will shape the edges of the vertebrae to insure proper fit he will insert the artificial disc. The soft tissues of the neck are moved back into place and the incision is closed.
Who is a Candidate for an Artificial Disc Replacement?
Candidates for artificial disc replacement typically have ongoing arm and neck pain. Once all conservative treatment methods have been exhausted, consult with your spine surgeon to determine if an artificial disc replacement is right for you.
- Patients who may experience relief from an artificial disc replacement often have:
- Herniated or degenerative disc
- Weakness in their hand or arm
- More arm pain than neck pain
- Not see improvement with physical therapy and/or medication
Be sure to consider all risk and benefits of spine surgery before making your decision. Only about 10 percent of people with herniated disc issue have enough pain after six weeks of conservative (non-surgical) treatment to consider spine surgery.
What to Expect After an Artificial Disc Replacement
As with any surgery you will experience some pain and discomfort. This is due to the incision and muscles being moved while surgery is being performed. If you had pain and numbness prior to your surgery, you may have these afterwards as well; especially if you had any delicate surgery around the nerve itself. This will gradually improve as you heal.
Some patients may experience a sore throat due to the approach used for surgery. This can be relieved with ice packs, drinking cool or cold liquids and eating a soft diet for the first few days after surgery. Avoid warm or hot beverages and swallowing solid items.
You will wear a hard cervical brace for several weeks allowing the artificial disc replacement to bond with the vertebrae above and below its insertion area. Once the area is healing adequately you will move into a soft collar and will start physical therapy. It’s important to complete the entire physical therapy prescribed ensure the best possible outcome from you surgery.
Results of an Artificial Disc Replacement
Unlike cervical spinal fusion, which stops the motion of your neck, you will have full range of motion once you complete your physical therapy. Artificial Disc Replacement surgery has been found to be as effective as fusion surgery in alleviating pain and returning patients to normal function.