As medical technology improves, so too do patient outcomes. In orthopedic surgery, one of the most obvious examples of this can be found in a procedure called cervical disc replacement. Where patients suffering from degenerative disc disease or injury in the neck were once limited
to having the damaged discs removed and the vertebrae fused together, patients who are good candidates can instead have a replacement disc inserted, providing them with a more natural range of motion, as well as improved recovery time.
Not every patient who suffers from neck pain will necessarily be a good candidate for cervical disc replacement. Patients who are older are more likely to suffer from arthritis, and for those patients a more stabilizing procedure like fusion may be a better answer. But for those for whom more conservative, non-surgical approaches have not worked, who are younger and more active and who are suffering from conditions such as cervical disc herniation, cervical radiculopathy, cervical spinal stenosis or degenerative disc disease, the replacement procedure may be the answer that they need.
The cervical discs are meant to provide cushioning between two vertebrae, and when it herniates, slips out of place or is in some other way damaged, it allows pressure and pinching on the spinal cord and its nerves. The original procedure used to treat these conditions is known as anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. That surgery involves the spongy disc material being removed and the two adjacent vertebrae being fused together using a combination of bone, metal and screws. Though the procedure stops the pressure on the nerves, it has the downside of eliminating the mobility that the spine’s original construct provided.
The disc replacement surgery provides a more natural solution and alleviates stress on the vertebrae while allowing the patient to — once healed — twist, bend, and reach as they once did. It also offers a much faster recovery time, with many patients able to walk out of the office on the same day as their surgery.
Cervical disc implants have been available in the United States since the Food and Drug Administration approved them in 2007, but not all surgeons are trained in the procedure. The procedure involves an incision being made in the front of the neck rather than the back. This provides easier access to the damaged discs, as well as replacement with the artificial discs between the vertebrae.
Recovery from cervical disc replacement is dependent upon your condition at the time of the surgery but in most cases ,patients are able to return home the same day as the procedure and can return to their work within a week or so, though people whose work requires physical labor will have restrictions for a few weeks.
The best way to determine whether or not you are a candidate for this procedure is to set up an appointment for an examination. We will do a thorough physical examination, talk to you about your symptoms, and help to find the answer that will find you maximum relief.