If you have cervical or lumbar degenerative disc disease and are suffering from chronic pain and functional limitations that no longer respond to conservative interventions, your surgeon will likely recommend an artificial disc replacement to provide you with effective, long-term relief.
Check out this brief guide to learn what to anticipate before, during, and after your disc replacement procedure.
Before the Procedure
There are many steps to take before a disc replacement procedure to avoid the risks inherent to all kinds of spine surgery. Disc replacements are invasive procedures, which will need general anesthesia and large incisions. Your surgeon will provide you with preoperative instructions to get you adequately prepared for your procedure.
Days prior to your procedure, your doctor will have you undergo a physical exam and diagnostic tests, such as blood tests, electrocardiogram (ECG), CT and MRI scans, and X-rays to determine whether there are any medical problems that are contraindications for the procedure or that will increase the risk of complications.
Tell your doctor about the medications and supplements you’re taking. You may have to stop taking blood-thinning medications, such as aspirin, before your procedure to minimize the risk of excessive bleeding.
If you’re a smoker, you will have to stop smoking for a few weeks before your disc replacement procedure.
Since a disc replacement procedure uses general anesthesia, you will have to avoid food and fluid intake hours before your operation. When general anesthesia is administered, your body’s reflexes are temporarily stopped. Food or fluid intake before surgery increases your risk of developing pulmonary aspiration (having food or fluid stuck in your airway) or regurgitating the contents of your stomach.
You will then be instructed to get geared up for your procedure by changing into a gown then proceeding into the operating room.
During the Procedure
Once the general anesthesia takes effect, your spine surgeon and their team will start the procedure. Before making an incision, your surgeon will first clean the area. The cut will be on the front or side of your neck for cervical disc procedures. The incisions for a cervical procedure are relatively smaller compared to those for a lumbar disc replacement.
Your surgeon will access your lower back from the front via an incision on your abdomen, moving the organs and blood vessels to the side. This approach allows your surgeon to access your spine without doing any damage to your spinal nerves. Your surgeon will then proceed with opening and exposing the disc space, then remove the damaged disc and replace it with the prosthetic one, which is made of metal, plastic, or ceramic, or a combination of these.
Your surgeon will then put your organs, tissues, and blood vessels back in their proper place before suturing the incision. A dressing will be placed atop the suture to prevent infections and facilitate healing.
Patients undergoing cervical disc replacement procedures may need neck supports.
After the Procedure
After the procedure, you will be transferred to the recovery area until the anesthesia wears off. Your care team will continue to monitor your vital signs.
Your doctor will prescribe pain medications and give you post-operative instructions to ensure your comfort and safety during your recovery.
In addition to the usual discomforts associated with any type of major operation, artificial disc replacement entails long periods of postoperative rehabilitation. You will therefore have to undergo physical therapy. Your physical therapist will teach you how to safely carry out your daily activities and incorporate exercises to help you regain your strength and normal function.
You will have to put off work for a while. The recovery period usually lasts four to six weeks for cervical disc replacements and three months for lumbar disc surgeries. You will need someone to help you move about during your recovery period.
Disc Replacement Procedure in Lone Tree, CO
At Front Range Neurosurgery, our board-certified neurosurgeons offer proven, evidence-based surgical options—such as disc replacement procedures—and have established a solid reputation for delivering exceptional treatment outcomes.
Call us at (303) 790-1800 to schedule an appointment with one of our neurosurgeons, or you may fill out online request form.