Cervical Disc Replacement
Cervical Disc Replacement Surgery
The goal of the Cervical Disc Replacement procedure is to restore the intervertebral disc height and neuroforaminal height while restoring physiologic motion (similar to that of a healthy disc) in that segment of the spine. The surgery requires complete removal of the unhealthy disc in order to implant the new artificial disc.
- The surgery is approached from the front, with a relatively small incision in the neck.
- The intervening structures are then gently moved to the side so that the surgeon can visualize the spine while protecting important anatomic structures.
- The spine surgeon then removes the patient’s collapsed, degenerated disc.
- The Cervical Disc Replacement is then implanted.
- The Cervical Disc Replacement is designed to be held in place by the spinal ligaments and the remaining part of the annulus of the disc as well as the compressive force of the spine. Bending X-rays of patients after the surgery show that the motion of the artificial disc (flexion, extension, side bending and rotation) can closely approximate the normal motion of a healthy disc.
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After the disc replacement surgery, it has been reported in the European experience and in the U.S. clinical trials that patients can typically expect:
- Return to daily function soon after surgery, without the need for postoperative cervical collar as may be needed in cases of fusion.
- Outpatient Rehabilitation usually starts after surgery
- Hospital stay of about 1 day
- Unlike spinal fusion, bone graft is not used so there is no potential for pain or discomfort from the bone donor site (in the patient’s hip).
Potential Risks and Complications
In general, the risks of the Artificial Disc replacement include:
- The risks of general anesthesia.
- The risks of an anterior spine approach.
- Allergic reaction to the implant materials.
- Bladder problems.
- Bleeding (may require a blood transfusion).
- Implants that break or move or otherwise malfunction (which may require revision surgery).
- Post-surgery pain or discomfort.
- Spinal cord or nerve damage.
- Spinal fluid leak.
- Problems with the incision healing.Because artificial disc replacement is a major surgery in and around the spine and major vascular structures, there is also a risk of death, paralysis, or nerve injury. In addition, as with any type of spine fusion surgery for chronic low back pain there is a risk that the patient will still have low back pain after the surgery.All of the above risks can be substantially mitigated by ensuring the diagnosis is accurate, the patient is an appropriate candidate for the surgery, and the spine surgeon is appropriately trained and experienced in doing the Artificial Disc procedure.Finally, in addition to the known risks listed above, there are also unknown risks due to the fact that the Artificial Disc is still a relatively new technology and procedure. For example, it is not yet known how well the disc implant will hold up over time. Because most of the candidates for disc replacement are in there 30’s and 40’s, the disc will need to withstand a great deal of force and wear and tear. Over time, more will become known about the potential limits of the disc and if and/or when replacement surgery will be needed for patients.