Lower back pain is one of the most common ailments around the world. It’s said that four out of five people will suffer from lower back pain sometime in their life. Lumbar disc replacement surgery is a technically advanced procedure that has become more popular as an alternative to fusion surgery for treating lower back pain. The top surgeons at the DISC Spine Institute perform lumbar disc replacement surgery for conditions including disc degeneration and disc herniation in the lower back.
At one time, fusion was the only surgical option for lumbar degenerative disc disease and disc herniation. With advancements in technology and surgical techniques among a select group of renowned spinal surgeons like those at the DISC Spine Institute, lower back pain sufferers have another option. Lumbar disc replacement surgery has been proven to be a safe and effective surgical treatment for the relief of chronic lower back pain that has not been sufficiently relieved by conservative, non-surgical means.
During lumbar disc replacement surgery, the problem disc is surgically removed and replaced with an artificial disc. This type of disc is known as a motion preservation device because it allows for flexion, extension, lateral bending, and rotation. Eventually, the bone of the vertebrae grows into the device’s surface, holding it in place.
Improved mobility is achieved with cervical disc replacement surgery because the artificial disc mimics the natural disc. Not only does this preserve motion and flexibility, it also preserves disc height. Other advantages of lumbar disc replacement surgery include:
Lower chance of adjacent disc problems—Fusion surgery can put additional stress on the discs surrounding the affected disc. This may result in further disc degeneration. The motion preservation of lumbar disc replacement minimizes the stress on adjacent discs
Proven safe—Numerous studies have proven lumbar disc replacement surgery to be safe. The surgery is typically short, taking as little as one hour, and is far less involved than fusion surgery. Lumbar disc replacement also eliminates the risk of complications that can result from bone grafts.
Efficacy and satisfaction—Studies also show lumbar disc replacement surgery to have both an extremely high success rate and customer satisfaction rate. Success in the short term allows patients to return to activities they may have halted because of the pain. Long-term outcomes allow for greater comfort and peace of mind, thanks to a significantly lower rate of reoperation than fusions.
Whichever type of procedure your surgeon is performing, it’s critical they have the experience and technical skill to perform advanced surgical procedures. Being in the care of one of the acclaimed surgeons at the DISC Spine Institute further increases the chances of being able to eliminate your chronic lower back pain for good.
Recover faster—Lumbar disc replacements generally have a faster recovery time than fusions. While each patient is different, most return home within a day or two after a lumbar disc replacement surgery. You may go home the same day or spend a few days in the hospital, and you should be able to return to most activities in a few months, depending on the severity of your condition and the complexity of your procedure.
Although there are conditions and other types of chronic lower back pain that might necessitate lumbar disc replacement surgery, there are two main conditions:
Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease—With Degenerative Disc Disease, one or more spinal discs between the vertebrae lose their water content, either naturally due to aging or as the result of an injury. This makes the affected disc(s) unable to act as a cushion, causing extreme lower back pain. The lack of cushioning adds stress on the surrounding vertebrae. Nerve compression in the lower back may further complicate the condition and cause severe pain for the patient.
Herniated Disc in the Lumbar Region—When the disc becomes dried out or desiccated, it can lead to disc herniation in the lower back. This occurs when the annulus, the outer rim of the disc, weakens, allowing the nucleus pulposus, or inner part of the disc, to push out.
Lumbar disc replacement surgery is generally not recommended unless the patient is still experiencing symptoms after six months of conservative treatments. Patients may have severe pain in the lower back, which can also extend to the buttocks and legs. You may also experience numbness, tingling, or a pins-and-needles sensation. The pain is often more pronounced when you’re bending, sitting, or lifting.
Initial conservative treatments can involve a combination of rest, medications, activity modification, in-home exercises, and physical therapy. This conservative approach is in line with how the two world-class surgeons at the DISC Spine Institute, Dr. Mark Valente and Dr. Andy Indresano, are known to proceed. They believe it’s essential to make every attempt to heal patients in as minimally invasive manner as possible.
After six months of treatment, other factors are considered to help determine if a patient is a good candidate for lumbar disc replacement. When you are examined, your doctor will consider your overall health. Lumbar disc replacement is also limited to patients who do not have more than two involved discs; do not have severe joint disease or extensive nerve compression; and who do not have a spinal deformity like scoliosis. Patients also should not have had previous spinal surgery.
No matter which type of lumbar disc surgery you have, it’s critical to seek out a leading spinal surgeon. While lumbar disc replacement is today a common surgical procedure, many surgeons may choose to perform fusions because they lack the technical skill and training to perform disc replacements. The DISC Spine Institute’s spinal surgeons are leaders in their field and are among a small percentage of top surgeons around the world who are on the leading edge of cutting-edge minimally invasive spinal procedures.
During lumbar disc replacement surgery, the surgeon will make a small incision in the abdominal area, typically an inch or inch-and-a-half long. The internal organs and blood vessels are then carefully moved aside so they’re protected, and to provide access to the spine. The damaged disc is then removed and replaced by an artificial disk. Any bone spurs that have developed in the lumbar region can also be removed during the procedure.
While everyone is different, patients are typically up and walking shortly after their lumbar disc replacement surgery and can often return to work after a week or so. If your surgeon recommends physical therapy, you can expect it to begin around four weeks after surgery. Patients are typically released to resume most activities after six weeks, but are cautioned against twisting, bending, or lifting heavy items until they have been medically cleared by their doctor.
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.