Disc Replacement FAQs

We're here to help.

Why Artificial Disc Replacement?

Hear about the powerful impact surgery had on Michael’s life.

What conditions can be treated with artificial disc replacement surgery?

Degenerative disc disease
Neck Pain
Cervical Radiculopathy
Cervical Myelopathy
Low Back Pain
Lumbar Radiculopathy
Herniated and Bulging Discs
Spinal Stenosis
Foraminal Stenosis
Some cases of Nonunion or Failed Fusion
Central Canal Stenosis
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What are the advantages of disc replacement surgery?

• Preserves and reestablishes normal movement in the spine.
• Avoids use of bone grafting materials, such as cadaver bone, BMP, and autograft (bone graft taken from iliac crest or another part of a patient’s own body).
• Less blood loss and quicker recovery than a fusion
• Prevents accelerated degeneration of the disc above or below the replaced disc
• Less invasive surgery than a fusion
• Avoids the use of hard collars and braces
• More rapid return to normal activities and unrestricted work compared with a fusion
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If I have had an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion performed, can this be converted to an artificial disc?

Converting a fused disc to an artificial disc replacement depends on how the fusion was performed and whether the facet joints are fused. We have performed many such surgeries and can determine if this is possible during your pre-operative consultation and evaluation.
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Can I have artificial disc surgery on the disc above or below the fused disc?

Artificial disc replacement surgery can be performed above or below a fused disc. The specific details of how that can be done will be discussed with you during your consultation.
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Does disc replacement surgery require a hospital stay?

We have been performing disc replacement surgery in the outpatient setting since 2008. Over the years, we have developed minimally invasive techniques that enable us to perform these operations through very small incisions, minimizing blood loss and tissue damage, and eliminating the need for hospitalization. The typical patient is able to go home or to a local hotel within hours of surgery. If needed, patients can stay overnight in our recovery suites.
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What are the risks of disc replacement surgery?

The specific risks of this type of surgery depend on several factors, including which part of the spine is being addressed, whether previous surgery has been performed on the neck, abdomen, or spine, and if specific anatomical abnormalities or variations exist.

In our series of patients, the risks are less than 1 percent, and include, but are not limited to, infection, substantial bleeding, wound healing problems, swallowing problems, vocal cordparalysis (CTDA only), esophageal injury (CTDA only), vascular injury, organ injury (LTDA only), ureteral injury (LTDA only), retrograde ejaculation in men (LTDA only), failure of the the implant, need for a fusion, spinal fluid leak, need for further surgery, development of a Horner’s syndrome (CTDA only), allergic reactions, and anesthetic complications including death.

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How is a disc replacement different from a laminectomy, foraminotomy or microdiscectomy?

In disc replacement surgery, the goal is to completely remove the disc and any bone spurs that are causing pressure on the spinal cord and/or nerve roots, and to implant a new artificial disc that performs all the functions of a normal disc. Disc replacement operations are performed by approaching the spine from the front, thereby avoiding cutting though any neck or back muscles or joints and causing pain or potentially creating a situation in which a fusion might be needed.

A laminectomy involves cutting though the skin on the back of the neck or lumbar region, peeling the muscle off the spine, and cutting away the bone that protects the spinal cord and nerves in order to take the pressure off them. The muscle and skin are then sewn back together in order to cover the spinal canal and protect the spine.

A foraminotomy involves cutting the skin on the back of the neck or lumbar region and traveling through the muscle in order to expose the the spinal column where the nerve exits the spine. Bone is then removed in order to enlarge the hole through which the nerve travels in order to relieve any pressure or pinching that is causing symptoms such as pain or weakness. The muscle and skin are then stitched together in order to close the wound.

A micro discectomy is procedure that is designed to remove the disc material that is pinching the spinal cord or nerve root. It is typically done in a way that is similar to a laminectomy or foraminotomy. The goal is to remove the disc material that is causing the problem, without needing to replace the disc or perform a fusion. In this operation, the spinal cord and/or nerve root is gently moved aside in order to remove the disc material. The disc is not repaired, and can be reinjured or fail in the future, requiring additional surgery such as a disc replacement or fusion.