Disc Replacement

Disc replacement is an alternative surgical option for people who might otherwise undergo spinal fusion surgery due to degenerative disc disease, bulging or herniated discs, or other painful disc-related issues. The procedure can be used for damaged discs in the cervical or lumbar spine

How does disc replacement work?

Spinal discs are cushions of tissue which lie between each of the vertebrae of your spine. They act as a type of shock absorber and allow the spine its wide range of motion. While traditional spinal fusion seeks to reduce pain by limiting movement in the affected area, the goal of disc replacement is to relieve pain while still maintaining spinal flexibility and range of motion. To that end, the damaged or diseased disc is replaced with an artificial disc made of metal, plastic (biopolymer), or a combination of the two, much like other artificial joints.

Disc Replacement
Disc Replacement

Procedure

Disc replacement surgery can often be done using minimally invasive techniques. An incision is made in the front of the abdomen, or the neck (depending on the problem area), then remove the damaged disc, and insert the artificial disc. Disc replacement surgery usually takes 1-2 hours.

Recovery

Depending on the location of where you’re needing surgery, you will only spend 1 – 2 days in the hospital after a disc replacement — a far shorter stay than the five-day or longer stay typical of spinal fusion. In some cases, disc replacement may even be done as an outpatient procedure.

Because disc replacement doesn’t require a bone graft, there's no need to wait for bone to heal, meaning you can resume normal activities faster. Recovery time is also far shorter than after spinal fusion, with immobilization generally required for less than a week.

Most people should be able to — and are even encouraged to — stand and walk the day after surgery. For those who are good candidates, disk replacement can get you back to doing what you love faster.

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