The bones that make up the spine, or vertebrae, can become worn over time through injury or a variety of spine disorders. So can the masses of connective tissue between the vertebrae called discs. Vertebral or spinal discs prop up vertebrae by providing shock absorption. These discs take the impact of movement to protect the vertebrae. When they become severely worn due to degenerative disc disease, they can be a source of severe pain.
Degenerative disc disease is caused by the breakdown of the spinal discs, which can lead to arthritis, disc herniation, compressed nerve, and spinal stenosis. There are two key options to relieving such conditions: lumbar spinal fusion and artificial disc replacement surgery. When choosing artificial disc replacement surgery, the patient’s natural discs must be replaced with artificial ones to maintain the spine’s function and mobility.
To replace the affected disc, an incision is made in the abdomen. The diseased or decomposed disc is removed along with any affected cartilage. Spine surgery specialists discuss a few disc designs with patients who are eligible for replacement. The prosthetic disc is made up of metal plates, in between which rests a polyethylene sliding core, which acts as the nucleus, or jelly-like center of the natural disc. Surrounding vertebrae are pushed away to make room for the prosthetic disc. Once it is implanted the vertebrae resume their natural resting position, supported by the artificial disc. This surgery usually takes two to three hours to complete.
Artificial disc replacement surgery seeks to maintain the physiologic motion one would have with a healthy disc. This differs from lumbar spinal fusion, which seeks to merge or fuse together the painful vertebrae so they can form one functional bone. Spinal fusion stops the natural motion of the affected disc. At times, patients who have successful fusions continue to experience lower back pain. Some doctors attribute this result to limited function of the spine.
Surgeons conduct a few tests to conclude whether a patient would benefit from this type of surgery. Among these are MRI, discography, CT scans, and X-rays. A good candidate for disc replacement is someone whose back pain is caused by one or two faulty spinal discs in the lumbar region, who shows no signs of facet joint disease or bony compression, is not obese, who has had no prior spine surgeries in the lumbar region, and does not suffer from scoliosis.
If you are a potential candidate for artificial disc replacement surgery, book an appointment with Garden State Pain Control’s premier surgical team or call (973) 777-5444 for more information.