The majority of cases of herniated or ruptured discs tend to respond to conservative treatment and do not require surgery. However, in cases where patients do not respond to conservative treatment for chronic pain, a surgical artificial disc replacement may prove to be the best option.
What is a Spinal Disc Replacement?
Like a hip or knee replacement for patients suffering from chronic pain due to injury or joint degeneration over time, a spinal surgeon may determine that the best course of action for a herniated disc is to remove the damaged disc from the patient and replace it with a prosthetic. Also known as arthroplasty, this motion preservation procedure involves the implantation of an artificial disc into the vertebral space to replace the damaged disc that was removed. Performed at the Marina del Rey Hospital, Dr. Khurana and his experienced surgical team have performed these procedures for countless patients with a history of success.
An artificial disc replacement is designed to perform the same functions as the original disc, most importantly to preserve mobility and maintain stability and support for the surrounding vertebrae. Similar to the way a joint functions, the disc is primarily responsible for sustaining motion and alignment, including the following movements:
- Side bending
For more information, please visit the AAOS website.
Who is a Candidate for Artificial Disc Replacement?
Disc replacement can be used for the lower back (lumbar) region or to replace an injured disc in the neck (cervical) region. The location of the damaged disc corresponds with the part of the body in which patients experience the most pain. A herniated disc in the lumbar region causes pain in the legs, buttocks, and sometimes the feet, while a cervical disc herniation causes pain in the arms and shoulders. If it is determined that traditional treatments like rest, medication, and physical therapy are insufficient, a spinal surgeon will evaluate the patient further to determine whether he or she is a good candidate for a replacement for a herniated disc.
Patients will typically undergo a series of diagnostic exams like x-ray, MRI or CAT scans to determine the source and extent of their pain. In order to be a good candidate, patients usually have to meet a few conditions in order to qualify. These conditions include the following:
- Chronic back pain caused by one or two herniated or degenerated discs in the lumbar spine
- No significant joint disease
- Not excessively overweight
- Have not previously undergone major surgery on lumbar spine
- Otherwise strong, healthy bones (not suffering from osteoporosis or scoliosis)
Surgery and Recovery
The implantation of an artificial disc is performed through an incision in the abdomen, allowing surgeons to access the spine with minimal interruption of the surrounding nerves. Barring any complications, the typical procedure runs from two to three hours.
After spine surgery, patients are usually up on their feet again within a day of surgery. Rehabilitation begins with movement exercises in the abdomen and trunk area for most patients. The normal hospital stay is usually two to four days depending on the patient’s response and pain management needs.
In the first few weeks following surgery, patients will usually undergo light rehabilitation exercises (such as walking and stretching) to work on flexibility and range of motion, while avoiding hyperextension. The overall recovery process can range from several weeks to months depending on the patient. While artificial disc replacement has been shown to significantly reduce pain in many patients, every case is different, and each patient should receive a comprehensive examination and diagnosis from a skilled surgeon in advance in order to determine whether surgery is a viable and desirable option for the patient.
To learn if artificial disc replacement is right for you, please contact Los Angeles Spine Group today.
Next, learn about reconstructive spinal treatments.