Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery

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Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery

If conservative treatment options are not resolving your back pain, it may be time to seek a surgical solution. At OrthoBethesda in Bethesda, Maryland, our highly skilled surgeons can meet with you to discuss your treatment options. Artificial disc replacement is a surgical treatment we use to recreate normal function and resolve chronic back pain. This procedure also serves as an alternative to spinal fusion, which has been known to accelerate disc degeneration at adjacent levels of the spine.

If you have been diagnosed with a condition or injury affecting the discs of your spine, you may be a candidate for artificial disc replacement surgery. Contact us today to learn more.


What Is Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery?

Artificial disc replacement surgery is an FDA-approved treatment used for back pain relief. The procedure can be performed on the low back, also called the lumbar spine, and the neck, or cervical spine. An artificial disc is inserted into your back to mimic the form and function of your spine’s natural disc.

After artificial discs are surgically implanted between your spine’s vertebrae, they’ll help reduce the pain you experience. They can also lower your risk for further spinal problems and disc degeneration in the future.

Different Types of Artificial Disc Replacements

Your natural discs are made of cartilage-like material and serve as cushions between the individual vertebrae of your spine. The outer portion of the disc, called the annulus fibrosus, is strong and fibrous. The inner portion is made of a gel-like material and is called the nucleus pulposus.

The artificial disc used in disc replacement surgery is made of metal or a biopolymer, plastic-like material or a combination of the two. Two types of artificial disc designs are generally in use today:

  • Total disc replacement: After the majority or all of the disc tissue is removed, replacement devices are implanted into the spaces between your vertebrae.
  • Disc nucleus replacement: The center of the natural discs are removed and replaced with an artificial nucleus.

Your Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery

During your artificial disc replacement surgery, your OrthoBethesda surgeon will make an incision on your abdomen. After moving the abdominal contents out of the way, the doctor exposes the spine. One or more natural discs are removed, and the surgeon restores any collapsed discs.

Metal plates are placed into the disc space, and a plastic bearing is inserted between the discs that allows them to move. Once this process is complete, your surgeon closes your incision.

Benefits and Risks of Artificial Disc Surgery

Artificial disc replacement surgery offers many benefits to our patients struggling with chronic back pain, including the following facts:

  • Normal activity can be resumed in a few weeks.
  • The procedure is less invasive and thus less painful than other surgical options.
  • You do not need to wear a brace.
  • The surgery prevents further disc degeneration in adjacent discs.
  • Recovery is faster than with spinal fusion surgery.

Artificial disc surgery is deemed to be both safe and effective by the FDA. However, any surgical treatment has associated risks, and this procedure is no different. These risks are no higher than those involved with spinal fusion, and the potential benefits of disc replacement far outweigh any dangers for most patients. Potential problems that could occur include:

  • Infection
  • Difficulties breathing
  • Blood clots
  • Damage to spinal nerves

Further Reading

Spine Surgery: When It Works and When It Doesn’t

How to Sleep After Back Surgery


Schedule an Appointment

Learn About Artificial Disc Replacement at OrthoBethesda in Bethesda, MD

If you have acute or chronic back pain and wish to find out more about artificial disc surgery, you can turn to the friendly and compassionate team at OrthoBethesda. Call us at (301) 530-1010 to schedule your appointment.