What is disc arthroplasty?

Disc arthroplasty is another term for artificial disc replacement, and it occurs during certain types of spinal fusion procedures. Due to the fact that disc replacement offers a more natural movement and flexibility to the spine after surgery, many patients are choosing this type of spinal fusion when available.

Damaged discs are one of the main causes of patients needing a spinal fusion procedure. The discs in the spine act as cushions for the vertebrae of the spine, allowing them to bend and move freely. Over time, with repetitive motions and weight gain, the vertebrae around the discs begin to compress, causing a slow deterioration.

As the discs continue to be compressed, a disc may bulge under the pressure of the vertebrae. When this happens, the damaged disc may impact a nerve root in the spinal canal, resulting in extreme pain and limited mobility. At this point in the disc degeneration process, many patients may not respond to conservative treatments like pain medication and physical therapy, and are recommended to have a discectomy, which removes part of the damaged disc, or a disc fusion, which removes the entire disc.

Before you agree to a traditional disc fusion, you should research the benefits of disc arthroplasty. We always encourage our patients to gather information about each available treatment option so they can be confident about their spine care decision. To learn about the advantages of a disc arthroplasty procedure and the alternatives available for treatment, read the following article.

Advantages of disc arthroplasty compared to traditional spinal fusion

During a traditional spinal fusion, a large a 6- to 8-inch incision is used to remove a damaged disc from the spine, and the two vertebrae surrounding the empty disc space are fused together using metal bolts and screws. This allows the spine to maintain its proper height and alignment without the disc to space out the vertebrae.

The disadvantages of traditional fusion are limited mobility and sometimes failed fusion. Because discs allow the vertebrae of the spine to bend and move, removing the disc and fusing the vertebrae together prevents movement in that area of the spine. Therefore, patients suffer slightly limited mobility after surgery. Also, the patient’s body may reject the fusion altogether, causing more pain and discomfort than before.

For these reasons, more patients are choosing disc arthroplasty to help support the vertebrae while still allowing backward and forward bending, side-to-side bending and turning after surgery. A few important things to note about disc arthroplasty ¬— this procedure was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2007 and only a select group of patients are eligible for it.

Alternative options for disc treatment

If you are suffering from a damaged disc in the spine that is causing you debilitating symptoms, you also have the option of choosing a minimally invasive treatment at Laser Spine Institute. We offer minimally invasive decompression surgery, which removes a small portion of the damaged disc to free the compressed nerve root in the spinal canal.

We also offer minimally invasive stabilization, which removes the entire damaged disc and replaces it with an artificial disc or bone graft. Both procedures are performed through a small incision and offer a shorter recovery time and lower risk of complication compared to traditional fusion.^ Contact Laser Spine Institute to learn more about the advantages of our minimally invasive procedures.

As the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery, Laser Spine Institute has performed more than 75,000 patient procedures since 2005. To find out if you are a potential candidate for our outpatient alternatives to disc arthroplasty, reach out to our dedicated team today and ask for a free MRI review.* We can help guide you on your journey to wellness.