Spinal disc replacement surgery is a procedure where a surgeon removes a spinal disc from a patient's neck and replaces it with an artificial disc made of metal. The replacement disc moves and works practically identical to a real disc.
When a disc is herniated, replacement is often a viable substitute for a disc removal (discectomy). The replacement disc helps to improve neck and arm function by allowing for a better range of motion than other procedures, such as a cervical fusion. Patients who choose artificial disc replacement often recover more quickly following the surgery.
Artificial disc implants are designed for placement placed into the disc space from the center and front position. To access the diseased or damaged disk, a surgeon approaches the spinal cord anteriorly (from the front), accessing the spine and disc by working around the abdominal contents (retroperitoneal) from an incision near or at the front of the abdomen.
By working from behind the abdominal contents, the surgeon reaches the spine by moving major blood vessels that bring blood from and to the legs. These vessels are generally found on the front surface of the spine, and must be protected and moved to work safely on the spine. Because of these concerns, a vascular or general surgeon is usually a part of the surgical team during anterior spinal procedures like total disc replacement.
This device helps to improve arm and neck pain and allows for more range of motion than other procedures, such as a cervical fusion. Those who choose an artificial disc often recover more quickly following the surgery, and those who wish to do so can opt for cervical fusion later.
Disc surgery is usually safe, but it is often not a permanent answer with about one-quarter of all patients who have this surgery developing the disease again within the next following ten years. It is often a fairly long-lasting temporary answer until cervical fusion can be done later.
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