An artificial disc is a device that is implanted into the spine to replace a degenerative disc, whose regular function is to carry weight and allow motion. A disc is the soft cushioning structure between the individual bones of the spine, (called vertebra). Artificial discs are usually made of metal and plastic-like (biopolymer) materials, or a combination of the two. These materials have been used in the body for many years.
Why is Cervical Disc Replacement Surgery required?
A large number of people nowadays face neck, shoulder and/ or pain in the arms mainly because of the abnormalities in the neck. These complaints can be signs of disc herniations or disc degeneration, and/or arthritis of the neck.
The cervical spine is composed of vertebral bodies and intervertebral discs. These discs wear out with time causing pain and other symptoms and are referred to as degenerative disc disease, a subgroup of which includes cervical disc herniations. This means the disc becomes compressed, frayed, and/or herniates into the adjacent spinal canal where it can press on nerves or the spinal cord.
Most patients with these types of symptoms do not need surgery and improve with conservative like anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, or cold/heat therapy. However, if a person continues to have significant neck pain and/or radicular arm pain, he or she may be a candidate for cervical spine surgery. An anterior discectomy and fusion is the most common operation for treating patients with symptoms related to a degenerative or herniated disc in the neck.
Artificial disc replacement surgery takes place under a general anesthesia, which means the patient is put to sleep. The procedure takes between one and two hours, followed by a three to four-day hospital stay. The artificial disc is designed as two metal end plates, between which may be found medical grade polyethylene or plastic or gel-like substances, much like a sandwich. After a general anesthesia the first step, is to remove the diseased disc before installing the replacement. For a total disc replacement in the lower back, a type of disc prosthesis may be used which consists of two metal plates surrounding a mobile core made of plastic.
Spikes protruding from the metal pieces fix them into the bone, which eventually grows and fuses with the plates. The plastic core allows gliding movements to occur. A different type of spine arthroplasty device, where two metal pieces articulate by way of a ball and trough, is sometimes used to replace a cervical disc in the neck. An alternative to a total disc replacement is what is known as a disc nucleus replacement, which may be carried out if the outer part of the disc is still quite healthy. In this procedure, only the center, or nucleus, of the original disc is removed. It is replaced by a type of plastic which absorbs water and swells to fill the nucleus cavity.
As the material is soft and can be compressed, it allows the disc to continue to function in a relatively It may take up to eight weeks for people to return to normal everyday activities after an artificial disc replacement has been carried out, although it could be longer before more vigorous exercises, such as sports, can be pursued. Artificial disc prosthesis, usually made of a gelatinous or plastic substance, is inserted into the vertebral space to approximate the normal height of the original disc.
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.
Most people spend one or two nights in the hospital. You may require an extra day or two if for some reason you're having extra pain or unexpected difficulty. Patients generally recover quickly after an artificial disc replacement. You should be able to get out of bed and walk within a few days. Some people wear a corset or brace for support. As you recover in the hospital, a physical therapist may see you to start you on a few gentle exercises.
You'll also start a walking program that you are encouraged to continue when you get back home. When you leave the hospital, you should be safe to sit, and walk. Your surgeon will see you within a month to do an X-ray to make sure the disc is in place and holding steady. However, you should avoid lifting things for at least four weeks. You can often return to work after your surgeon has evaluated you, as long as your job does not include heavy lifting. It should be noted that a successful result of the disc replacement means that back symptoms are better but not necessarily perfect. Most studies show that 70 to 80 percent of patients have significantly less back pain and greatly improved function with the operation.
You may want to ask some questions before your treatment begins: