Is disc replacement the right choice?

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David Min, MD from Salt Lake Regional Medical Center joined us to tell us about disc replacements. Spinal discs sit between the vertebrae of the spine acting as shock absorbers for the spine 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.

What is spinal fusion?

Traditionally, spinal fusion was the gold standard for chronic spine pain and spinal instability. Spinal fusion involves removing the damaged discs and permanently connecting two or more vertebrae by placing bone or other bone-like material within the spaces between the painful vertebrae. The vertebrae then heal to form one unit, which immobilizes part of the spine. Unfortunately, spinal fusion changes movement and flexibility of the spine and can place additional strain on the adjacent areas of the spine.

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 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.

Benefits of artificial disc replacement

– Preserves range of motion for a more natural feeling in neck

– Prevent premature breakdown of adjacent discs

– Offers a faster recovery for patients

– Reduces risk of revision

– Offers potential long-term solution to spine pain

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 neck pain caused by one or two intervertebral discs in the cervical spine

– Patients who suffer from chronic neck 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

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