What Is Disc Replacement?

Sun May 1, 2022

What Is Disc ReplacementIf you are experiencing unresolved chronic pain and limited movement in the neck and lower back, you may be a suitable candidate for disc replacement surgery.

Disc replacement is also known as intervertebral disc arthroplasty, total disc replacement, or spine arthroplasty. It is a surgery that replaces damaged or worn-out spinal discs with a prosthetic or a manufactured disk made of plastic and or metal to relieve pain while maintaining normal motion.

The disc acts as a cushion or shock absorber between the vertebrae (bones in the spine) and maintains spinal alignment while facilitating a range of motion. Disc deterioration may be caused by mechanical overloading, age, and genetic factors.

When the discs are injured, herniated, or damaged, it results in pain and limited mobility. Disc replacement preserves the spines’ natural structure and height while restoring fluid movement and flexibility. After the procedure, neck or back movements are improved without pain or limitation.

The main goal for disc replacement is to treat pain in the cervical (neck) and lumbar (lower back) regions when other treatments have not resolved it within six months. However, it is not ideal for all patients since there are special considerations and restrictions. Consult with your spinal doctor to determine if you are a suitable candidate for the procedure.

Disc replacement is suitable for the following conditions:

  • Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) The disease occurs when the intervertebral disc fluid naturally tears and wears due to motion, aging, obesity, spinal injury, and physical stress leading to stiffness.
  • Herniated Discs Disc herniation occurs when fluid bursts through the outer shell. The fluid pressurizes the spinal cord and nerves leading to pain, numbness, tingling sensation, and limited range of motion in the limbs.
  • Spinal Stenosis Spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal canal narrows, minimizing the spinal cord and nerve roots space in the lower back leading to pain and numbness in the legs.

Benefits of Disc Replacement

It is an excellent alternative to spinal fusion surgery which permanently joins two or more vertebrae. With Spinal fusion, there is a probability that additional surgery is necessary within ten years. This is because the fused bones can degenerate prematurely. Additionally, spinal fusion surgery can remarkably reduce spinal mobility. Therefore, disc replacement is more successful than spinal fusion.

Other benefits include:

  • Short rehabilitation period
  • Fast recovery
  • Preserved range of neck motion
  • Minimal stress on the adjacent cervical vertebrae
  • Patients do not need a collar in cervical disc replacement
  • Minimal possibility for secondary surgery
  • Safe and lasts long
  • No bone grafts, which minimizes complications
  • Low risk of infections
  • Minimal scarring

Suitable Candidate for Disc Replacement

The doctor performs tests to determine if the procedure is suitable for the patient. The tests include X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, discography, and Computed tomography (CT) scans that determine the source of pain. Suitable candidates for disc replacement include:

  • Patients whose nonsurgical treatment options have not worked
  • Patients with one or two damaged spine intervertebral discs
  • No spinal deformity from scoliosis, kyphosis, and lordosis
  • Patients who have a healthy weight
  • Patients with no significant facet joint disease or bony nerve compression
  • Patients without a prior major spinal surgery
  • Patients without weak bones (osteoporosis)

The Disk Replacement Procedure

The procedure mostly takes approximately two to three hours using general anesthesia. The surgical procedure is performed by a vascular surgeon with the assistance of an orthopedic surgeon.
The surgery involves removing the degenerated disc and replacing it with an artificial disc. It is performed through an incision in the abdomen to access the spine through the front. To achieve this, major internal structures like blood vessels and organs are gently moved to the side to access the spine and for safe implantation.
After implantation, the organs and blood vessels are returned to their usual place, and the incision is closed. The frontal approach protects nerves and back muscles, leading to minimal pain and a speedy recovery.

Post-Operative Care

Patients are discharged two to four days after surgery and may experience pain and weakness, which gradually subsides during recovery. The pain can be minimized by taking over-the-counter medication.

Physical and occupational therapists instruct patients on proper movement and exercises for quick rehabilitation and recovery.

Avoid twisting, bending at the waist, and lifting heavy objects to avoid strain injury until after 4 to 6 weeks as the muscles get stronger. Driving can resume after a week or two after the doctor’s approval. Patients can typically consume their usual diets after the procedure. It is not recommended to get into a pool or hot tub for several weeks after the surgery.

We want you to feel a difference by eradicating nagging neck and back pain. Please schedule an appointment with our experts at American Neurospine Institute for more information.

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