According to a study conducted in 2019, disc degeneration, herniation, and stenosis combined to account for 42% of total elective lumbar fusions in 2015.1 However, for patients considering surgery, whether due to chronic back or neck pain, there is an alternative to spinal fusion that may be right for you.
Artificial disc replacement is a surgical method of replacing diseased or damaged intervertebral discs of the spinal column with an artificial disc to relieve chronic pain and restore motion to the spine. Artificial disc replacement is an alternative treatment to spinal fusion for qualified patients suffering from back or neck pain.
You may be a candidate for artificial disc replacement if you meet the following characteristics:
- Non-surgical treatments have failed to relieve your pain or symptoms and everyday activities are difficult.
- Your pain is caused from bulging or worn-out discs.
- You have degenerative disc disease.
- Your pain or numbness originates in 1-2 discs of the spine.
- You maintain a healthy weight and have not had previous spinal surgeries.
Artificial disc replacement offers many benefits. It helps maintain normal movement of the spine compared to spinal fusion, which aims to prevent motion. Replacing the damaged disc with a prosthetic also negates the need for a bone graft. Patients undergoing artificial disc replacement can expect a faster return to normal activities and early motion after surgery.
Artificial disc replacement is not recommended for patients with facet joint syndrome or a bony compression on spinal nerves. Patients with spinal deformities such as scoliosis or bone weakness from osteoporosis would not benefit from this procedure.
Artificial disc replacement is not right for everyone, but for some patients it can help relieve pain and restore function. If you are considering spinal surgery, make an appointment to find out if you are a candidate for artificial disc replacement.
Dr. Brett Braly is a board-certified fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon specializing in spinal surgery. Dr. Braly is a leading advocate for minimally invasive techniques in spine surgery. Dr. Braly is named in the top “20 under 40” best spine surgeons by the North American Spine Society.