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Artificial Disc Replacement: A Minimally Invasive Solution to Back Pain

A central truth about life and all that comes with it is that nothing lasts forever.  Your spinal discs, for example.

Like every other mechanism in the human body, they’re subject to wear and tear.  So, while it’s not necessarily inevitable that you’ll have pain caused by disc degeneration, it’s in the cards for a lot of people as they age.

Artificial disc replacement: a minimally invasive solution to back pain is a “spare parts replacement” for discs worn down by time and trauma.  This method serves to restore function to your spine and to relieve pain.

Your spinal discs act as shock absorbers, cushioning your vertebrae and preventing them from rubbing together.  Filled with a gel-like substance, when they bulge (the gel-like substance extrudes from the tough outer coating of the disc) or are otherwise worn down, discs can cause back pain.  In fact, deterioration of the discs is one of the most common causes of back pain.

Two Types

The Artificial Disc Replacement (ADR) is a procedure in which the damaged disc is removed and is replaced by a prosthetic device.  These fall into two categories:  nucleus disc replacements and total disc replacements.

These are what they sound like.  The total disc replacement implicates the entire disc structure.  The nucleus disc replacement replaces only the center of the disc (its contents), leaving the annulus (outer coating or housing) intact.

The replacement discs are made from metals or biopolymer which serve to mimic the function of the natural disc.  The goal of ADR is to restore as much mobility in the affected area as possible.  This contrasts with another commonly called on procedure to address disc deterioration – spinal fusion.  Spinal fusion’s goal is to essentially eliminate mobility to safeguard the overall integrity of the spine.

In the nucleus disc replacement, the material employed is hydrogel, which resembles the natural material found in the disc’s nucleus and its properties.

Am I a Candidate?

Your candidacy for ADR can only be determined via examination and medical imaging.  The type of imaging tests used vary.  But most commonly, they’ll be a combination of the following:

  • Discography: An X-ray dye will be injected into your spine to allow the technology to identify areas of concern.
  • MRI (Magnet Resonance Imaging): This machine produces detailed images employing radio waves and magnetic fields.
  • CT (computed tomography): A narrow X-ray beam is used to examine specific areas in detail.
  • X-ray: Electromagnetic imagery reveals areas of concern inside the body, particularly in the skeletal system.

It’s important to know that the ADR is a surgical procedure, even though it’s minimally invasive, offering fewer complications (like infection).  So, your doctor will most likely suggest conservative therapies to begin with.  But certain conditions (established by the imaging tests described above) will prompt a recommendation for ADR.

Central Texas Spine Institute

Treating patients from all over the world since 1988, Dr. Randall F. Dryer has been named one of the top 100 surgeons in the world by Becker’s Spine.  Contact us.