When one is considering artificial disc replacement surgery over spinal fusion, it is important to understand that experience performing artificial disc replacement surgery is critical. There are spine specialists who have performed numerous artificial disc replacement surgeries, pioneered a variety of research studies and clinical trials.
The principle behind using artificial disc replacement surgery for treating spine pain and conditions is to enable a surgeon to treat a patient’s condition with the cervical or lumbar spine that usually arises as a result of aeging or degenerating discs without using fusion, which alters a spine’s normal movement.
Artificial disc replacement aims to replace a bad disc that is causing pain with a mobile artificial disc, rather than removing the disc and fusing the vertebrae together, which is what takes place in a spinal fusion. The artificial disc allows the spine to maintain its natural mobility and theoretically prevents abnormal motion or stress on adjacent spinal segments. This abnormal motion or stress can result in the degeneration that is believed to be the cause of long-term spinal fusion failure.
Cervical Disc Replacement
Although the materials and designs of artificisal disc replacements for the cervical spine and lumbar spine are similar, the indications for using each are very different. Artificial disc replacement in the cervical spine is used most often as an alternative to the spinal fusion that accompanies almost all anterior cervical decompressive procedures that treat radiculopathy, which is a compression of the nerves at the spine that result in pain, weakness, numbness, or difficulty controlling specific muscles or myelopathy, a condition of the spinal cord.
Lumbar Disc Replacement
On the other hand, most decompressive procedures for the lumbar spine that treat radiculopathy are performed using a posterior approach (from the rear), which doesn’t provide the access to the spine to enable a successful artificial disc replacement surgery. Instead, artificial disc replacement for the lumbar spine is used to treat the axial back pain caused by lumbar disc degeneration (which is treated using an anterior approach). Other non-fusion spine technologies such as the coflex® implant are under development to accompany posterior lumbar decompressive procedures.
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