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Back Pain: Is Disc Replacement the Right Choice?

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Posted at 8:17 AM, Sep 17, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-17 11:16:51-04

Spinal discs sit between the vertebrae of the spine acting as shock absorbers for the back and provide flexibility in the spinal column. Over time, those discs can weaken or develop cracks, sometimes resulting in degenerative disc disease. Degenerative disc disease can cause back and neck pain, loss of motion, and, in some cases, numbness and tingling in the arms and legs.
How is artificial disc replacement performed?
The purpose of artificial disc replacement is to reduce pain brought on by the degenerating disc and improve and/or maintain spinal mobility. During disc replacement, a surgeon uses an anterior approach, meaning the surgery is performed through the front of the neck or abdomen in the patient. After moving the organs and blood vessels in order to access the spine, the surgeon removes the worn disc and replaces it with an artificial disc. Most disc replacement surgeries are completed within one or two hours.

Benefits of artificial disc replacement

  • Requires a less invasive surgery, resulting in lower surgical risks, less pain, and less blood loss
  • Preserves range of motion for a more natural feeling in neck and back
  • Prevent premature breakdown of adjacent discs
  • Offers a faster recovery for patients
  • Reduces risk of revision

Who is a good candidate for artificial disc replacement?
To determine if you are a good candidate for artificial disc replacement, your surgeon may require a few tests to determine the source of your back pain.

Good candidates may include:

  • Patients with back pain caused by one or two intervertebral discs in the lumbar spine
  • Patients who suffer from chronic low back pain and have not responded to at least six months of non-surgical treatment
  • Patients who are also a candidate for spinal fusion
  • Patients who are not morbidly obese
  • Patients who do not have scoliosis or another spinal deformity