Disc arthroplasty

Disc arthroplasty is another term for artificial disc replacement, and it occurs during certain types of spinal fusion procedures. Because disc replacement offers a more natural movement and flexibility to the spine after surgery, many patients are opting for 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 spacers and cushions for the vertebrae of the spine, allowing them to move and bend freely. Over time, with repetitive motions and weight gain, the vertebrae around the discs begin to compress, clamping the discs and causing a slow deterioration.

As the discs continue to be compressed, one disc may bulge or split open 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 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 (artificial discs). We always encourage our patients to gather information about each available treatment option so they can be confident about their spine care decision.

Advantages of disc arthroplasty compared to traditional spinal fusion

During traditional spinal fusion, a damaged disc is completely removed 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 symptoms than before the procedure.

For these reasons, more patients are choosing disc arthroplasty to help simulate a natural spine with a normal range of motion after surgery.

A few important things to note about disc arthroplasty include:

  • Only a select group of patients are eligible for this procedure.
  • The procedure was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2007.

Alternative options for disc treatment

If you are suffering from a damaged disc in the spine that is causing you pain and discomfort, 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 grafts. Both procedures are performed through a small incision and offer a shorter recovery time^ and higher patient satisfaction score than traditional fusion.

Contact Laser Spine Institute for your MRI review to determine if you are a candidate for one of our minimally invasive procedures.