Disc replacement is the substitution of an artificial disc for an unhealthy intervertebral one. It is performed to alleviate the symptoms of degenerative disc disease, which occurs when the discs wear out from the effects of long-term stress and strain on the spine due to aging or as a result of injury. An artificial disc is designed to imitate the functions of a healthy disc by allowing spine to maintain its natural mobility.
Artificial disc replacement (ADR) may be considered in the presence of severe and prolonged symptoms from a damaged disc that have not responded to a course of non-surgical therapy. Up until recently, spinal fusion was the most common surgical procedure performed to treat unremitting disc problems. Today safe and effective artificial intervertebral discs replacement procedures offer select patients another surgical option.
Artificial disc replacement may be performed for the lower back (lumbar spine) or the neck (cervical spine). The goal of replacing a damaged disc with an artificial one is to reduce debilitating symptoms and to restore normal motion to the spine. A new prosthetic disc facilitates the natural mobility of the spine and restores function to that segment. It also reestablishes the height between the vertebrae. This helps to alleviate any nerve impingement and reduce unhealthy stresses that have been placed on adjacent intervertebral discs and structures. These improvements can ward off further deterioration of nearby spinal structures and prevent additional problems.
Patients who have undergone a disc replacement procedure may be up and walking soon after surgery. The doctor will monitor the healing process and provide guidelines for a resumption of activity along with recommendations for supportive therapies.