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Disc Replacement

Orthopedic surgeons have replaced worn-out hips, knees and other joints in the body for decades. Spinal surgeons now have the technology to replace worn-out discs in the lower back (lumbar spine) and neck (cervical spine).

Although European surgeons have implanted artificial discs in the spine for several years with good results, many of the implant devices are still being tested in the U.S.A. These artificial discs are in various stages of approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Symptoms which might lead one to require disc replacement surgery:

  • Neck or back pain localized to only one or two degenerated or herniated discs
  • Younger patients who may not want to undergo spinal fusion
  • Symptomatic patients who want to maintain the range of motion of their spine

Traditional Surgery

  • Historically, spinal surgeons treated certain disc herniations or degenerated discs with disc removal and fusion (welding together of 2 spinal bones)
  • Although the success rate has been greater than 90%, many surgeons are concerned that the fusion in one spinal area may accelerate the development of a disc problem at another level.  Disc replacement surgery may slow down or prevent the development of another problem.

Possible Treatment Options

Surgical Procedure

The disc replacement is performed through the front of your spine. After careful removal of most or all of the disc, an artificial disc replacement prosthesis is placed between the vertebral bones. The prosthesis is usually a combination of metal and very hard plastic.

Not everyone is a suitable candidate for disc replacement. Conditions such as osteoporosis and severe arthritis could potentially produce poor results.

To learn more about this treatment, view our spine animations.