For those people suffering from degenerative discs problems in the spine, when conservative treatments fail and surgery is needed, spinal fusion is the most common surgery performed. If you are a proper candidate, with modern advancements there is a new way to repair these disc problems. It is called Artificial Disc Replacement surgery.
There are disc replacements for both the neck (cervical) and the lower back (lumbar) portion of the spine.The old way of fixing disc problems was with a Spinal fusion; this surgery has many
disadvantaged associated with it though.
Some spinal fusion disadvantages are:
1. Loss of motion and reduced flexibility
2. Can cause stress to adjacent levels, this can later lead to problems in new areas that would also require surgery
3. Success rates for a spinal fusion are 75% to 80%
4. Recovery times are usually very long
Artificial Disc Replacement surgery is still a relatively new treatment option for degenerative disc disease. The surgery itself involves the full removal of all the disc material between two vertebrae and the insertion of the artificial disc.
As this surgery is still quite new not all questions have been answered and there are only a few long term studies that have looked into the, if any, long term benefits from using this procedure over a spinal fusion.
Be very careful in choosing a doctor if you are thinking about having artificial disc replacement, some doctors have a vested interest in performing these surgeries as some of them stand to benefit if these artificial disc replacement makers succeed.
If you have had previous surgeries, or weakened bones in your spine or more than one damaged disc and you are still being advised that this is an option for you, it might be best for you to search out a second opinion from a neutral doctor to be sure you are not being affected by a smoke and mirrors act.
Once you have had the surgery you can expect to be out of the hospital within a few days and back to your normal activities within 6-8 weeks. There will be some rehabilitation involved during the first few weeks and after that it is generally just some core strengthening to make sure your spine is as supported as best it can be.
As for who is a candidate for an artificial disc replacement, an ideal person for this surgery is someone who:
1. Is under the age of 60
2. Only has one degenerative disc
3. Has no types of bone diseases such as osteoporosis
4. Is in otherwise good health and a healthy weight
5. Has not had previous back surgery (i.e. spinal fusion)
6. Has not responded to other various non-surgical treatments
7. Has not had any facet joint problems (artificial disc replacement surgery has been known to cause facet joint issues)
8. Does not have scoliosis or any other type of spinal deformity
9. Does not have any bones compressing nerves