If you are suffering from chronic back pain that has failed to improve with nonsurgical treatments, you may be considering surgery.
Two common surgical options for back pain relief are artificial disc replacement and spinal fusion. Both procedures have advantages and disadvantages, so it is important to weigh the options carefully before deciding.
Let’s explore both artificial disc replacement and spinal fusion and discuss the pros and cons of each option so that you can make an informed decision about your health care.
Understanding Artificial Disc Replacement and Spinal Fusion
In a normal spine, discs made of cartilage act like cushions that absorb shock, like when you walk or run. A protective disc separates each set of two vertebrae next to each other.
But if these protective discs get worn out or damaged, they can pop out and squeeze the nerves in your spine, causing back pain. They can also get worn down to the point where they no longer support your vertebrae, so your bones (vertebrae) rub against each other, causing debilitating pain.
Artificial disc replacement (ADR) is a type of spine surgery that involves removing a diseased or damaged disc of the spine and replacing it with an artificial one. ADR aims to preserve motion and mobility in the spine, which can lead to more natural movements post-surgery.
On the other hand, spinal fusion is a surgical procedure used to correct issues with the vertebrae, the small bones of the spine. It involves fusing two or more vertebrae so they can heal into a single, solid bone. This is done to eliminate painful motion in the spine.
Pros and Cons of Artificial Disc Replacement
Like any other surgical procedure, artificial disc replacement has its own pros and cons that must be considered before choosing it.
Pros of ADR
The main advantage of ADR is that it preserves motion and mobility in the spine. By replacing the damaged disc instead of fusing the vertebrae together, ADR helps patients maintain a more natural range of movement. ADR can also lead to a quicker recovery time.
Compared to spinal fusion, it also lowers the risk of adjacent segment degeneration. ADR is a viable option for patients who are younger and more active.
Cons of ADR
Although ADR is a promising alternative to traditional spinal fusion surgery, it is still considered a relatively new procedure, and more research is needed to fully understand its long-term effectiveness and potential complications. Moreover, not all patients are suitable candidates for ADR.
It’s pertinent to mention here that artificial discs may wear out over time and require revision surgery. The revision rate for artificial discs is higher compared to spinal fusion.
Pros and Cons of Spinal Fusion
Here are some advantages and disadvantages of spinal fusion.
Pros of Spinal Fusion
Spinal fusion has been a standard procedure for many years and has proven effective in treating various spinal conditions, such as scoliosis, rheumatoid arthritis, spondylolisthesis, and ankylosing spondylitis. It can provide significant pain relief for these spine conditions.
Durability is another advantage of spinal fusion. Once fused, vertebrae will remain immobile and can provide a permanent solution for patients with severe cases of spinal instability. Like artificial disc replacement surgery, spinal fusion has no risk of implant failure.
Cons of Spinal Fusion
The durability of spinal fusion comes with a price. The immobile vertebrae can cause additional stress on the adjacent discs, leading to additional degeneration, a condition known as adjacent segment disease (ASD).
It can limit the spine’s flexibility and may lead to a longer recovery period compared to ADR.
Artificial Discs in Colorado
Choosing between artificial disc replacement and spinal fusion involves considering factors such as age, overall health, lifestyle, and specific spinal conditions. Having a detailed discussion with your spine surgeon about these options is crucial.
They can perform comprehensive assessments and provide personalized advice based on your unique spine situation.
With several locations across Colorado, our team of spine surgeons and neurosurgeons at Front Range Spine and Neurosurgery perform a comprehensive assessment to pinpoint the underlying cause of your unique problem. We offer nonsurgical, minimally invasive, and surgical treatments for a comprehensive range of injuries and conditions of the spine and brain.