Disc Replacement Surgery

Back Surgery Information

Disc Replacement Surgery

Disc replacement surgery is surgery carried out to solve issues with back pain. This surgery, and any other type of surgery, is normally carried out as a last resort, when more conservative treatment methods have failed to resolve the back pain. The conservative treatments for back pain include medication, spinal disc decompression, spinal manipulation, hot and cold packs, epidurals and physical therapy to name a few.

Previously, the most commonly performed back surgery for disc herniation was spinal fusion. However, disc replacement surgery is becoming more popular due to its better outcome. This is perhaps because this type of surgery gets rid of the disc that is causing the pain while at the same time giving good motion in the area of the spine the artificial disc is implanted. Disc replacement is done on the lumbar spine and also on the cervical spine. However, lumbar disc replacement is more commonly performed.

Disc replacement surgery is a procedure during which an artificial disc, also called a disc prosthesis, disc replacement or spine arthroplasty, is implanted in the place of a damaged disc to replicate its function. The artificial disc can be made of either plastic (polyethylene) or metal.

Disc replacement surgery is normally carried out for degenerative disc disease. There are two types of disc replacement surgeries; disc nucleus replacement and total disc replacement.

During a disc nucleus replacement surgery, the nucleus, which is the soft center part of the disc, is removed and an implant is put in its place. For a total disc replacement surgery, the entire disc is removed and replaced with an implant.

Before determining who is a suitable candidate for disc replacement surgery, the orthopaedic surgeon will carry out a number of tests such as a CT (computed tomography) scan or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to determine if there is disc degeneration. They may also do a discography (to determine which disc has degenerated). The doctor will use the test results in conjunction with medical history to determine candidate suitability.

A good candidate is someone who has back pain due to one or several problem discs and the back pain has not been resolved from less invasive treatments. A patient will be ruled out as a candidate for disc replacement surgery if they suffer osteoporosis, spondylolisthesis, have a spinal infection or spinal injury, scoliosis or any significant joint disease, are morbidly obese, have autoimmune issues, chronic steroid use or are allergic to the implant materials.

This type of surgery will also not be carried out on pregnant women or on people who have had serious abdominal surgery previously. This is because spinal disc replacement surgery is done through the abdomen as the implants are designed to be introduced this way.

This surgery, like any other surgery can have inherent risks and complications, so it is always best to use disc replacement surgery as a last resort to stop or reduce severe pain.