Disc nucleus replacement is a type of minimally invasive spinal procedure closely related to artificial disc replacement surgery. However, during nucleus replacement, only the soft inner core of the intervertebral disc is changed, allowing a less damaging approach to back surgery and preserving the form and function of the spine.
This treatise will detail the innovative disc nucleus implantation procedure, which provides another option for patients who are currently suffering from severely herniated or degenerated intervertebral structures. Nucleus replacement will be compared to full disc replacement and other types of disc prolapse surgery.
What is Disc Nucleus Replacement?
While various forms of this procedure have been in development for many years, modern nucleus replacement is a whole new specialty within the neck and back pain industry.
Complete disc replacement involves removing the entire damaged or degenerated organic disc and setting a synthetic artificial disc in its place. Meanwhile, nucleus replacement typically keeps the organic annulus fibrosus in place and only replaces the soft inner core of the disc. This core structure, the nucleus pulposus, is responsible for maintaining the height and flexibility of each intervertebral level. Replacing the nucleus only is a truly minimalist approach to herniated disc surgery which shows great promise for the future.
There are methods of nucleus replacement which seek to utilize a pre-constructed synthetic nucleus implant, while others utilize an injection process to fill the existing annulus with a liquid, gel or foam material which will firm-up to become the new nucleus. Both seem plausible, but neither has gained a definitive advantage in clinical studies. Unfortunately, many early surgical methods and nucleus prosthetics have failed during research trials.
Nucleus Pulposus Replacement Indications
Nucleus pulposus replacement is considered for patients with herniated or ruptured discs. It is also an option for patients with advanced degenerative disc disease. Nucleus replacement is not used to treat other forms of back pain; it is reserved for confirmed cases of disc-related pain only.
Remember that degenerative disc disease is a completely normal and expected process which is generally asymptomatic and rarely requires treatment of any kind, especially surgical modalities. Herniated discs may be symptomatic for a time, but are also unlikely to create chronic pain syndromes which require surgical intervention.
In almost every case, patient qualifying criteria are very strict in order to be eligible for nucleus only replacement. This is normal and expected when any operative procedure is in early development.
Disc Nucleus Replacement Opinions
I like the idea of nucleus replacement, just like I am fond of the idea of complete disc replacement. Both of these surgical techniques seek to stabilize problematic disc levels, while maintaining normal spinal function. This is a far better ideology than the antiquated and ridiculous theory of using spinal fusion for disc pain conditions.
I believe there will be a bright future for nucleus replacement and this type of procedure might even have more promise than the current medical fascination with full disc replacement. That being said, I still must make it clear that I am generally anti-surgery and find it to be an overused and mostly inappropriate treatment for most forms of back, neck and sciatica pain.
Make sure to exhaust all conservative therapy options before considering herniated disc surgery and also remember to learn all the facts concerning any procedure you are considering. This is a process which might be better accomplished through independent research, since your surgeon is bound to show partiality to their recommended procedure.