Disc replacement surgery is an advanced surgical procedure performed at the DISC Spine Institute to treat chronic back pain. The procedure has been proven to be successful in treating spinal disc degeneration and disc herniation, allowing patients to overcome their pain and get back to life. Disc replacement surgery is also an increasingly favorable alternative to fusion surgery for those who are good candidates.
There was a time not long ago when spinal fusion was the only surgical option for degenerative disc disease or disc herniation. Advancements in technology and surgical techniques among a select group of highly skilled surgeons like those at the DISC Spine Institute have made disc replacement surgery a safe and effective alternative for the relief of chronic neck or back pain.
Disc replacement surgery involves removal of the damaged disc, and the procedure can be performed in the cervical area (neck and shoulders) or lumbar area (lower back). Once the disc is removed, a motion preservation device, or artificial disc, is inserted into the disc space, allowing for flexion, extension, lateral bending, and rotation through the device. The bone of the vertebrae eventually grows into the device’s surface, holding it in place.
There are several advantages of disc replacement surgery over spinal fusion:
Improved Mobility—The artificial disc used in replacement surgery acts as a natural disc, preserving spinal mobility and flexibility. By contrast, spinal fusions limit movement.
Reduced chance of future problems—Because disc replacement preserves movement, there is generally a reduction in future disc problems. The limited mobility associated with fusions can lead to added stress on the surrounding discs and cause adjacent disc degeneration. Do you want to keep this section?
Safety and efficacy—Extensive studies show disc replacement surgery to be safe and effective in both the short term and long term. While fusion surgery is suitable for some patients, some studies show fusions carry a higher incidence of reoperation. Disc replacement surgery is a much less involved surgery and also eliminates any risk of complications from bone grafts. Choosing a top surgeon like those at the DISC Spine Institute further increases the odds of a safe and successful procedure. It’s crucial to work with a doctor who has the experience and technical skills to perform advanced surgical procedures to ensure the best outcome.
Quick Recovery—Disc replacement typically has a quicker recovery time than fusion surgery because the two discs are not being joined together. While each patient is different, you can expect to return home as early as the same day as your procedure or spend a few days in the hospital, and resume most activities in a matter of a few months, depending on the severity of your condition and complexity of your surgery.
There are two main conditions that lead to disc replacement surgery:
Degenerative Disc Disease—Degenerative disc disease is a condition that occurs when the spinal discs, which are located between the vertebrae, lose their water content due to aging or injury. The reduced water content makes the disc unable to act as a cushion, causing pain. The lack of a cushioning effect from the desiccated or dried-out disc also puts added stress on the adjacent vertebrae and joints, further increasing the pain level.
Herniated Disc—The same desiccation that occurs as a result of degenerative disc disease can cause disc herniation. This is when the outer rim of the disc, called the annulus, weakens, which allows the inner portion of the disc, the nucleus pulposus, to push out. The disc herniation typically causes severe back pain and puts direct pressure on the spinal nerves. That can lead to excruciating arm or leg pain, depending on the location of the herniated disc.
Types of Disc Replacement Surgery
The DISC Spine Institute’s two world-class surgeons, Dr. Mark Valente and Dr. Andy Indresano, are renowned for their surgical skills and commitment to minimally invasive techniques. They pride themselves on their conservative approach, making every attempt to heal patients’ pain using non-surgical treatments first. This typically involves a combination of rest, activity modification, home exercises, physical therapy, and medications including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) and other medications as necessary.
Disc replacement surgery is only considered when a patient is still in pain conservative treatments. DISC Spine’s surgeons are leaders in their field and are among a very small group of top surgeons around the world—just 10%—who have been specially trained to perform cutting-edge minimally invasive procedures.
Disc replacements can be performed in the cervical area (neck and shoulders) or lumbar spine (lower back). Both procedures are typically performed through a small incision with minimal blood loss and limited tissue disruption. The muscles, tendons, and ligaments are preserved instead of being dissected. These procedures usually take about 60 minutes. Some can be done on an outpatient basis, while some individuals will stay in the hospital for one or more days, depending on the severity of their condition.
Cervical is the most common type of artificial disc replacement surgery and is performed when there is a disc herniation, degeneration, and/or nerve compression in the neck.
Symptoms you’ll want to look out for include:
During cervical disc replacement, the surgeon will make a small incision on the front or side of your neck and protect the neck’s inner structure while accessing the damaged disc. Once the disc is removed, the artificial disc is secured into the empty disc space.
Artificial lumbar disc replacement has proven successful at eliminating and significantly reducing chronic lower back pain while preserving spinal mobility.
Symptoms treated include:
During lumbar disc replacement surgery, the incision is made in the abdomen.
The time and amount of detail involved in a patient’s disc replacement surgery can impact the recovery period. However, patients are typically up and walking just hours after their procedure and are released to go back to work after about a week. They’ll be advised to refrain from heavy lifting, twisting, or bending for six weeks.
The DISC Spine Institute puts tremendous emphasis on guiding patients through the recovery period after spinal surgery. The entire staff is committed to the health and well-being of its patients, providing continued recovery support with any necessary pain medications, muscle relaxants, support bracing, and metabolic supplements to aid in the healing of bones, nerves, and soft tissue, as well as topical scar healing medications and physical therapy when indicated. In addition to Dr. Valente and Dr. Indresano, DISC Spine’s experienced medical assistants and midlevel providers provide an enhanced level of support to help guide patients all the way through the recovery phase.
Depending on how many levels and the location, could be outpatient or require an overnight stay in the hospital.
While not technically minimally invasive, care will be made to keep incisions and tissue disruption to a minimum.
This procedure will cause minimal blood loss with limited tissue disruption.
Patients are usually up and walking hours after surgery. Often back to work 1 week after surgery. No heavy lifting, twisting or bending for 6 weeks.
The procedure is approximately 60 minutes.
Not all patients and procedures are the same. The above is an example of what the typical patient can expect from some minimally invasive procedures.