Artificial disc replacement has been around in Europe for over a decade and was FDA approved in the U.S. in 2004. These disc replacement procedures are a mechanical device meant to replace an intervertebral disc in the spine; this helps to relieve lower back pain and restore motion to the spine. Currently, several designs for disc replacement have been developed and are now being tested.
Are You A Candidate For Disc Replacement?
Before determining whether or not you are a candidate for disc replacement, your doctor will probably perform either a CAT scan, an MRI (magnetic resonance image), or an x-ray. The purpose of this will be for the surgeon to determine where the source of the pain is. Candidates For Disc Replacement Surgery:
- Does not have any deformity like scoliosis
- No prior major surgery in their spine
- Source of back pain is thought to be from 1-2 intervertebral discs in the spine
- Not excessively overweight
- Do not have facet joint disease or compression from bone on the nerves
Disc Replacement Procedure
The procedure begins with the surgeon entering your body from the front, with an incision in the abdomen. This way, the surgeon can move the organs to the side and access the spine without having to move the spinal nerves. Traditionally, a vein specialist will assist the orthopedic surgeon as he/she is opening and exposing the disc space. The surgery itself takes about 2-3 hours.
By the first day after your procedure, you are encouraged to try and get up and walk. The reason for such a quick recovery is because there is no bone healing required. You will usually stay in the hospital for 2-4 days depending on their level of pain.
Rehabilitation usually includes walking and stretching and especially avoiding activities that use hyperextension.
Lower back pain should subside within a few weeks and up to a month. According to studies and FDA-regulated trials, disc replacement surgery improves most but not all suffering. Pain control is a critical part of the discussion between the patient and the doctor to have a clear set of expectations.
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