Back in the day, patients suffering from degenerative disc disease that would not respond to nonsurgical interventions only had spinal fusion surgery as their only recourse. Today, with the significant advances in surgical and implant technology, patients finally have an alternative that can reduce the risk of complications otherwise associated with a spinal fusion—an artificial disc replacement.
An artificial disc replacement involves removing a worn or damaged disc (the soft structure situated between the vertebrae) and replacing it with a prosthesis. An artificial disc replacement is performed to essentially eliminate the pain caused by disc degeneration as well as to restore mobility and function within the spine.
Let’s explore the most commonly performed types of disc replacement procedures as well as the different types of artificial discs.
The Most Common Types
There are five different types of artificial disc replacement procedures. Discussed below are the most commonly performed types:
- Cervical disc replacement is performed to remove and replace a diseased or worn disc in the neck with a prosthesis.
During the procedure, the surgeon makes an incision in a natural skin fold in the throat area, at the front of the neck, then proceeds with putting the artificial disc in its place. The surgeon then anchors the two metal plates to the bony roof and floor of the joint space.
- Lumbar artificial disc replacement is done to remove and replace the diseased or damaged intervertebral discs of the spinal column with a prosthesis.
During the procedure, the surgeon creates an incision in the abdomen, and then moves the organs to the side to allow access to the spine. The surgeon then removes the damaged disc and puts the prosthesis in place. The surgeon then puts back the organs in place and closes the incision.
Types of Artificial Discs
There are currently four different types of discs being evaluated and tested: composite, hydraulic, elastic, and mechanical. Below is an outline of each type.
- Composite discs are designed with a flexible elastic nucleus and are aimed at reducing friction and wear and tear while allowing for normal range of motion.
There are several types of composite discs available and the most widely used ones usually consist of a polyethylene spacer with metal end plates. They are available in a range of sizes and often have a ring around them to ensure they are visible on an X-ray. (This helps to monitor the effectiveness of the artificial disc over time.)
- Hydraulic discs have a gel-like core encased within a tightly woven polyethylene cover. The hydrogel core is designed to absorb fluid and expand once implanted to help restore and maintain disc space height.
- Elastic discs, typically made of a rubber or silicone core to allow for flexibility, are fused to two titanium end plates.
- Mechanical discs vary in their design, and some types are still in their developmental stages. Some are made of metal-hinge plates with an interposed spring device.
If you are considering a disc replacement, your surgeon will discuss whether you are a suitable candidate, and which of these types is most suitable for you.
Artificial Discs in Lone Tree, Parker, Colorado Springs, and Aurora, CO
If you are suffering from degenerative disc disease and want to find out whether an artificial disc replacement is right for you, visit us here at Front Range Spine and Neurosurgery. Dr. Michael Rauzzino, our board-certified neurosurgeon, specializes in minimally invasive spine surgeries. He will perform a thorough evaluation to determine your eligibility for the procedure.
Once he ascertains that you’re a good candidate, he will equip you with all the information necessary to help you adequately prepare for the procedure and ensure a successful recovery.
To learn more about artificial disc replacement or to schedule a consultation with Dr. Michael Rauzzino, contact us at (303) 790-1800. Alternatively, you can use our online form to request an appointment.