Surgical Information

Cervical Disc Replacement

What is cervical disc replacement?

Cervical disc replacement is an advanced surgical procedure that involves removing a damaged or degenerated cervical disc and replacing it with an artificial disc device. It is an exciting new option in spine surgery and, for certain patients, can be a good alternative to the traditional fusion technique. Implanting the artificial disc preserves motion and function in the neck and may have the advantage of creating less stress on the remaining vertebrae.

Who is a good candidate for this procedure?

Currently, cervical disc replacement is performed in select patients with cervical disc stenosis or cervical disc herniation whose pain, weakness or disability fails to respond to conservative treatment.

Not everyone is a candidate for disc replacement surgery. A surgeon who is trained in both spine fusion techniques and disc replacement technology is the best person to determine the most appropriate surgical option for each patient. A consultation with the proper surgeon is crucial in making that determination.

Anatomy

Located between the vertebrae in the upper back and neck, cervical discs contain a gel-like substance that provides a cushioning effect and allows the neck to turn and bend smoothly.

If a cervical disc becomes damaged by degeneration or injury, it may bulge abnormally or break open – a condition known as a herniated disc. Degenerative changes or injury can also result in a condition called stenosis – a narrowing of the spine that puts pressure on the spinal canal and nerves in the neck.

When is surgery recommended?

If you have worsening neck or back pain resulting from a herniated disc or stenosis that limits everyday activities, and all non-surgical methods of treatment have failed, you should consider surgery.

The type of surgery you have depends on many factors including your overall health, the location and severity of your cervical disc disease, and your pain and disability. It is very important that you are carefully screened by a surgeon who is trained in both spine fusion techniques and disc replacement technology to determine the most appropriate course of action.

What is the recovery time?

Because cervical disc replacement avoids spinal fusion, it may result in a faster recovery. Symptoms of pain, numbness and weakness are often dramatically improved immediately following surgery. Most patients are able to go home the next day. A post-operative neck collar is not usually needed. The majority of patients return to light work within a week or two and are back to full activities and sports within six weeks. However, as with all surgical procedures, specific recovery time varies by patient and demand.

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