If you are suffering from chronic pain and limited mobility due to a degenerative or herniated disc and conservative treatment measures aren’t working, it may be time to consider a surgical solution. One alternative is artificial disc replacement (ADR), also known as total disc replacement. However, before moving forward with artificial disc surgery, there are several things you and your doctor should consider:
Is Surgery Your Best Option?
The decision to undergo artificial disc replacement often hinges on the severity of your condition. There are two common disorders that may require ADR:
- Degenerative disc disease – As we get older, the discs between our vertebrae that provide cushion, support, and range of motion, tend to wear down. Disc degeneration in the cervical (neck) area can lead to numbness and tingling in the arms, with pain that radiates down the arms and possible loss of function. Disc degeneration can also be the result of a traumatic injury, a loss of collagen, dehydration within the disc, or arthritis, all of which can also lead to disc herniation.
- Disc herniation – This occurs when a disc in the cervical, thoracic (upper trunk), or lumbar (lower back) regions leaks its contents into the surrounding space, thus putting pressure on nerves, or the spinal cord, resulting in pain, numbness, and tingling in your limbs.
Many disc problems resolve themselves on their own and can be managed with anti-inflammatory medications. Also, there are non-surgical modalities – including epidurals, facet blocks, hot/cold therapy, and physical therapy – that may be considered first. If you don’t respond to any of these treatments, ADR surgery becomes the logical option.
Which Is Better – Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery or Fusion?
ADR has several advantages over ACDF (anterior cervical discectomy and fusion) surgery, in which the disc is removed and replaced with a bone graft from the patient or a synthetic replacement. For one thing, ADR preserves mobility of the neck that is lost when bones are fused during the ACDF procedure. Also, it is not necessary to wear a collar or brace as may be required following a fusion operation. With ACDF, there is a risk that the graft may fail to heal properly and result in non-union of the bone, a complication that would require further surgery. Since the bones do not need to heal, artificial discs do not create complications.
What Sort of Results Can You Expect?
Although ADR will not improve your mobility, it will restore it to what it was before surgery while relieving the pressure on surrounding nerves. As a result, it will eliminate pain, tingling, and numbness, thereby improving your quality of life.
What Is Recovery Like After Artificial Disc Replacement?
Because it is a minimally invasive procedure, you’ll be up and walking the same day as your ADR surgery. You will be required, however, to follow your doctor’s instructions concerning limited activities to reduce the risk of post-op complications, improper wound healing, and reinjury of the surgical site. Your recovery will also be guided by a physical therapist who will help you restore mobility and educate you on the right ways to perform daily activities.
What You Need in a Surgeon
Before undergoing ADR, you want to be sure that your surgeon not only specializes in ADR, but also has the experience and special training to provide you with the best possible outcome. A board-certified and fellowship trained neurosurgeon who offers a full range of surgical, therapeutic, and rehabilitative services is essential, as it provides continuity of care throughout your treatment and recovery.
Artificial Disc Replacement in Colorado
At Front Range Spine and Neurosurgery, we offer a wide range of innovative neurosurgical procedures, especially minimally invasive procedures. Drawing on years of advanced training and innovative treatments, our highly skilled doctors practice comprehensive, patient-centered care designed to help you achieve the best possible outcomes.