The vast majority of people will experience spine pain at some point in their life, but most can treat their back pain with conservative measures like rest, exercise and physical therapy. However, a small amount will suffer from disc issues that require surgery. Sometimes these disc problems can be resolved with a spinal fusion operation, but that results in the fusing together of two vertebrae, and it immobilizes that section of the spine.
Another operation for certain disc problems that is becoming more popular is artificial disc replacement, which works similar to other replacement operations you’ve seen in hips and knees. It involves inserting an artificial disc that mimics the movements preformed by a healthy spinal disc. Below, we take a closer look at the operation.
Goals of Artificial Disc Replacement
The goal of artificial disc replacement is two-fold; to relieve pain and discomfort and to maintain as much normal range of motion as possible. The biggest difference between artificial disc replacement and spinal fusion is that with artificial disc surgery, the device preserves some of the normal range of motion in the area. While some patients experience wonderful results from spinal fusion, others don’t achieve a full recovery, and doctors think this can be caused by the fact that fusion prevents normal motion in the spine from taking place.
Am I A Candidate For Artificial Disc Replacement?
Your doctor will take a look at a number of different factors to determine if you are a candidate for artificial disc replacement surgery. Although your specific case may be different, the ideal candidate for artificial disc replacement will have some or all of the following characteristics:
- Back pain that is caused by one or two damaged intervertebral discs.
- No major facet joint disease or bony compression on the spinal nerves
- Not overweight
- No previous major surgeries on that area of spine
- No deformity of the spine like scoliosis or kyphosis
How is Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery Performed?
Here’s a look at how the procedure is performed.
You will be given anesthesia and placed on the operating table. The surgeon will begin by making a small incision in your abdomen in order to address the damaged disc. Coming from this angle will allow the doctor to assess the disc without moving the spinal nerves. Once in place, the surgeon will work to remove the problematic disc and then insert the artificial implant into the disc space. Once the spinal disc is stabilized, your doctor will close up the incision site and you will be taken to a recovery room. Surgery usually takes between two and three hours.
You will be encouraged to walk during the first week after surgery, and you’ll perform some simple exercise and stretching routines in the first few weeks after your operation. You’ll want to be careful not to hyperextend your back while it is recovering. Most patients can expect to see improvement in a few weeks or a month after surgery. Your pain may not fully resolve, so it’s important to manage expectations with your doctor prior to surgery.
For more information about the operation, or to talk to Dr. Chang about your spine pain, contact his office here.