Herniated disc replacement is an experimental procedure that is being studied as an alternative to spinal fusion. To better understand herniated disc replacement, one must first understand the source of herniated discs.
In between the individual vertebrae in the spine is a soft cushion of round joint cartilage – called a “disc” – that acts as a shock absorber for the back and neck. Over time, the outer shell of these discs can wear and rupture or herniate. When this happens, pressure can be applied on the neighboring nerve roots causing a variety back and neck pain. Often herniated back discs can be treated through non-invasive means, but occasionally a surgical alternative is necessary – particularly in the case of degenerative disc disease.
Traditionally, the most common surgical option has been full open-neck or open-back disc surgery, where the doctor removes the damaged disc and fuses surrounding vertebrae together. Unfortunately, this procedure has a number of risk factors involved, such as:
- The procedure is extremely invasive open-back surgery
- Fusing two vertebrae together leaves the patient with decreased range of motion, as well as the risk of damage to other parts of the spine
- It isn’t always successful
As an alternative, doctors and surgeons have begun studying herniated disc replacement, with the theory being that the artificial disc will be able to replace the natural one. This would mean the patient would ideally not lose any flexibility, nor would other segments of the back and neck be at greater risk for further damage. However, it is important to note that this procedure has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and much research still needs to be completed to better understand the long-term ramifications of herniated disc replacement. Furthermore, disc replacement would be a highly invasive procedure with a long recovery period.
If you are suffering from a herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, or are otherwise a candidate for spinal fusion, contact the award-winning staff at Laser Spine Institute (LSI) to learn more about the minimally-invasive, outpatient procedures offered to help address your back and neck pain. While herniated disc replacement may not be a realistic option today, a number of state-of-the-art laser assisted procedures are. Back and neck pain do not need to be a part of your everyday life.