5 Reasons Why Doctors Are Considering Artificial Disc Replacement Over Cervical Fusions
By: Jennifer E. Landis
Cervical fusions are often considered the best and sometimes only treatment option for patients with spinal disc degeneration. When the cartilage disc between the vertebra disintegrates or starts to degenerate, the two vertebra are fused together to prevent the two pieces of bone from rubbing against each other when the patient moves. While this can help prevent the pain normally associated with spinal disc problems, it presents a number of problems of its own — complications including reduced spinal flexibility are common.
This is why more doctors are starting to consider artificial disc replacement as an alternative to traditional cervical fusion. What is artificial disc replacement, and how could it change the future of spinal surgery?
What Is Artificial Disc Replacement?
As its name suggests, artificial disc replacement is a procedure that replaces the damaged or degenerated cervical discs in the spine. It’s a fairly new procedure, relatively speaking — the first artificial disc for this procedure was only approved in 2004. Instead of fusing the vertebra together to prevent back pain, the damaged cervical disc is removed and replaced with an artificial one.
In many respects, it is very similar to traditional joint replacement surgeries — the joints are partially or completely replaced to remedy chronic pain. This is the same school of thought that applies to cervical disc replacement — simply replacing the faulty part to reduce pain.
When Is Disc Replacement an Option?
Disc replacement can be a good option for anyone who might be experiencing back or neck pain in relation to a degenerating disc. In many cases, it is a viable alternative for any patient who might be entertaining the idea of a cervical fusion to remedy their chronic pain.
Unfortunately, most professionals prefer performing a traditional fusion to the alternative of artificial disc replacement — as many as 95 percent of spine surgeons would rather stay in their comfort zone instead of performing cervical replacements.