Artificial disc replacement surgery is a far more enlightened approach to spinal surgery than other traditional methods, such as discectomy, laminectomy and especially spinal fusion. Disc replacement is used to treat herniated and worn out discs caused by a wide range of traumatic and degenerative processes. This procedure is also called artificial disc implantation or intervertebral disc arthroplasty.
This dialog will examine how disc replacement preserves the natural design of the spinal column, yet can still provide pain relief for some varieties of disc pathology. Furthermore, we will compare the technique to other indicated spinal procedures and look at the pros and cons of each treatment choice.
Disc replacement is defined as removal of the damaged organic intervertebral structure and subsequent substitution of a synthetic disc unit, which may be a single or multi-piece prosthetic device. This is not to be confused with disc nucleus replacement, in which only in the interior portion of the organic disc is treated.
Disc replacement can be performed through a variety of surgical approaches, but is typically done through an abdominal incision. The injured or degenerated disc is removed and a new artificial disc is placed in between the vertebral bones.
Once the new disc is secured in place, the incisions are closed and the patient is sent on the road to recovery. It is amazing how fast some patients heal and most are encouraged to stand and walk within hours of undergoing surgery.
Artificial disc implantation is recommended for patients with degenerative disc disease or a herniated intervertebral disc which would typically be treated with discectomy and/or spinal fusion. There are still somewhat narrow parameters used to determine eligibility for certain devices, but there is no doubt that time will improve both the flexibility of disc replacement operations, as well as the effectiveness.
Surgeons generally specialize in using one particular type of artificial disc, but in the future, doctors will most likely offer a range of individual choices based on the best device for each specific patient.
Disc replacement surgery is the option which truly seeks to maintain the natural functionality of the spine, instead of limiting intervertebral movement via fusion surgery. This will prevent accelerated degenerative processes from acting on the regions which surround a traditional fusion, making disc replacement a better long-term solution for many patients.
Being that a tough synthetic disc substitute is used, there will be no chance for re-herniation, as is so common in discectomy recipients.
There are many artificial disc devices in general use and even more in clinical trials and development. The future of disc replacement surgery seems to be very promising and there is no doubt that untold billions are to be made by surgical device manufacturers.
Disc implantation is a remarkable technology which has shown real promise as the very first herniated disc surgery procedure which might just maintain the form and function of the human spine, the way nature intended it to be.
The surgery has been used in Europe for many years, but has only enjoyed limited success in the US during the past 2 decades. The FDA has committed itself to rigorous testing for all new artificial discs prior to them being accepted for general usage. Although long-term results of most devices will not be available for some time, preliminary data is promising and most patients seem to be better off than those treated with spinal fusion surgeries.
The main downside to the procedure seems to be the various hardware-related complications which can and do occur. However, this is also commonly experienced in spinal fusion patients, and at least with disc implantation, the hardware is used to preserve intervertebral movement, not restrict it.