Cervical disc replacement surgery

When one of the soft, spongy intervertebral discs that normally cushions the vertebrae become deteriorated to the point of causing severe pain and disability, cervical disc replacement surgery may help. During the procedure, an artificial disc replaces an unhealthy vertebral disc, allowing a weakened spine to be re-stabilized. This surgery offers relief from pain, numbness or tingling in the neck, arm and fingers.

Do you need cervical disc replacement?

The cervical region of the spine refers to the neck and the upper back. Although the first two vertebrae of the neck, the atlas and the axis, do not contain intervertebral discs, the subsequent five vertebrae are separated by these cartilaginous pads that act as shock absorbers for the body’s movements.

Intervertebral discs join adjacent vertebrae together. As we age, these discs begin to wear away, resulting in ruptures and protrusions that can infringe on neural activity around the spine. Because the neck is such an integral part of our mobility, neural compression in this region can be highly debilitating, which is why some people consider surgery to achieve disc pain relief.

In some patients, cervical disc replacement surgery may be a solution to the problem of a deteriorating disc, as prosthetic discs are designed to perform all the tasks that a natural disc performs. An artificial disc (often made of hydrogel, polyethylene, titanium or cobalt chromium) is fastened directly to bone. This new disc can be flexible enough to aid in range of motion and shock absorption.

You may already be considering cervical disc replacement if you are experiencing:

  • Herniated disc
  • Ruptured disc
  • Bulging disc

Older patients, however, might not be able to receive a replacement disc because their spinal bones are too weak to support prosthetic materials.

Spinal fusion surgery

Historically, the treatment of choice for severely damaged discs was spinal fusion. In this surgery, a team of surgeons removes the affected disc and fuses the neighboring vertebrae together with bone grafts. This can result in a loss of flexibility. This type of traditional open neck disc surgery carries a number of risks, including infection, scarring and a lengthy recovery.

As an alternative to a massively invasive procedure like traditional open spinal fusion, physicians have two different options for patients to consider — artificial disc surgery and minimally invasive spine surgery.

Artificial disc surgery

With artificial disc surgery, a team of surgeons accesses the affected disc — again through open back surgery — and surgically removes the damaged disc. Then, surgeons replace the problematic disc with a prosthetic, or manmade, disc. Theoretically, the artificial disc allows patients to retain their flexibility and diminish the additional stress placed on the rest of the spine.

Minimally invasive spine surgery

At Laser Spine Institute, we offer minimally invasive stabilization procedures as alternatives to open neck and back surgery. Our cervical disc replacement procedure is a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure that offers you a number of benefits, including:

  • Muscles are separated, not cut or torn as you might experience with traditional open neck and back surgery
  • Reduced risk of infection
  • Less surgical blood loss

If you have been suffering from neck or back pain, and conservative treatments have not provided enough pain relief, please call a member of our Care Team today so that you can learn more about cervical disc replacement. 88 percent of our patients return to their daily activities within three months of having surgery. Let us assess your situation and determine if we can help.