What is Disc Replacement Surgery?
Disc replacement is a surgical procedure used to reduce pain and increase mobility in patients with certain spine conditions. Healthy intervertebral discs act as shock absorbers between vertebrae, keeping the bones from rubbing together. They also help give the spine its flexibility and motion. Aging discs can weaken and crack or tear, allowing the gel-like inner part to bulge out. The bulging disc can irritate or put pressure on the spinal cord or surrounding nerves.
During disc replacement, a surgeon removes all or part of the damaged spinal disc and replaces it with an artificial disc. It is used to treat conditions like:
- Degenerative disc disease
- Herniated discs
Disc replacement can be performed to address neck pain when nonsurgical treatments haven’t helped. It can be an alternative to spinal fusion surgery.
Using robotic technology, the procedure is minimally invasive, and you can go home the same day.
The surgery is done under general anesthesia as an outpatient procedure. Because of the anesthesia, you will need a driver. You’ll be able to go home the same day.
- Your surgeon makes a small incision above the damaged disc and gently moves muscles and other tissues out of the way.
- Using slim surgical instruments, your surgeon removes the damaged disc and prepares the space for the artificial disc.
- After implanting the artificial disc, the muscles and tissues that were moved are put back in their original positions.
- The incision is closed with dissolvable sutures and covered with a dressing.
- You’ll be moved to a recovery area for monitoring and post-operative instructions.
Before you go home, staff will talk to you about how to exercise to support your back and how to move correctly while you heal. You will achieve the best results if you follow your post-operative instructions carefully.
Is Disc Replacement an Option?
Surgery isn’t an option for everybody with neck or back pain. You and your surgeon will discuss your medical history, your pain, and your treatment options at your consultation. You’ll also have a physical exam and diagnostic imaging tests, like an X-ray or MRI.
In general, a good candidate is someone who:
- Has tried nonsurgical treatments, but they did not provide relief
- Has pain in only 1-2 discs
- Doesn’t have significant joint disease
- Doesn’t have significant nerve compression in their spine
- Is not obese
- Doesn’t have a history of previous spinal surgery
- Doesn’t have a spinal deformity, like scoliosis
Recovery from a minimally invasive surgery is shorter than with open surgery, but it could take a few weeks to a few months.
It’s important to walk and gently stretch while recovering to help your spine stay limber. You will need to avoid any jarring movements throughout your recovery.
Before you go home, medical staff will teach you how to care for your incision, precautions you need to take, complications to watch for, and when to come back for a follow-up appointment.
Like any surgery, there are some risks. Possible complications are:
- Blood clots
- Dislocation of the artificial disc
- Fracture or failure of the implant
- Loosening or wear and tear of the implant
- Narrowing of the spine
- Reaction to the anesthesia
- Stiffness of the spine
- Surgical pain
You can help minimize risks by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, not smoking, and following your surgeon’s instructions while you heal.
What are artificial discs made of?
Artificial discs are made from various materials, including polyethylene, titanium, cobalt-chrome, and stainless steel.
What are the benefits of minimally invasive spinal surgery?
Minimally invasive surgeries cause less trauma to the body overall, meaning it has less to heal.
What is the advantage of having disc replacement over spinal fusion?
Disc replacement is meant to preserve movement in the affected spine segment. Fusion takes away the mobility in the affected segment, which puts more wear and tear on the segments above and below the fusion.
If you think disc replacement surgery may be right for you, schedule a consultation visit today.