Cervical disc replacement is a surgical procedure that involves removing a damaged or degenerated cervical disc and replacing it with an artificial disc device. Cervical discs are the cushions or shock absorbers between the bones (vertebra) of the neck (cervical spine). Discs that become damaged either through trauma or degeneration can be a source of pain. If part of a disc moves out of its normal position it can cause pressure on the central spinal cord or on the individual nerve roots that exit from the spinal canal at each vertebral level. Over time, the body’s reaction to a disrupted disc is the formation of bone spurs called osteophytes which can also cause pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots. Disc disruption and degeneration can be a source of neck pain as well as cause neurologic symptoms which may include pain, numbness or weakness that radiates from the neck into one or both arms.
The standard initial treatment for symptomatic cervical disc disease typically involves physical therapy, medications, and occasionally spinal injection procedures. If the symptoms continue and are very bothersome for more than 6-12 weeks, surgical treatment can be considered. Some patients with a disc herniation that is localized off to one side of the spinal canal can be managed with a procedure performed on the back of the neck called a posterior discectomy or lamino-foraminotomy. However, the most common and traditional operation for symptomatic cervical disc disease involves an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion surgery.
Benefits of Cervical Disc Replacement
- Artificial disc surgery has lesser chances of requiring a revision surgery, compared to spinal fusion surgery
- Normal neck motion can be maintained
- Unlike the spinal fusion surgery the adjacent spinal discs in case of cervical disc replacement don’t have to bear the extra stress .
- Eliminates the need for a painful bone graft
- Recovery time is quicker compared to the fusion surgery.
- Lesser number of patients need a hard collar following the cervical Disc Replacement surgery.
Advantages of Cervical Disc Replacement vs. a Cervical Disc Fusion
- Unlike a fusion procedure, the artificial disc surgery does not have the potential complications associated with taking a bone graft from the hip nor the theoretical risk of infection transmission from using a cadaveric bone graft. Clearly the issue of bone graft healing is eliminated.
- The disc replacement also should reduce the chances for adjacent segment disease (versus a fusion), since the artificial disc should allow for more normal neck motion and absorb some of the daily stresses of the neck. The length and type of activity restrictions following surgery are also much less with disc replacement.
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