lobby1At the Disc Replacement Center of Excellence, our goal is to help our patients feel like they understand their procedure. If you still have questions after reading our artificial disc FAQ, don’t hesitate to contact our surgery center. You can also schedule an appointment with one of our spinal surgeons.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is an artificial disc?

A: An artificial disc is a type of device that is implanted into the spine in place of the natural spinal discs. They are designed to imitate the function of spinal discs by cushioning the weight of the spine and enabling motion. They are most commonly used in the cervical (neck) and lumbar (lower back) regions.

Q: What is a spinal disc?

A: A spinal disc is a soft, cushioning disc that exists between the vertebrae, or bones, of the spine. The function of these discs is to absorb shock and allow for flexibility and movement of the vertebrae. The spinal discs are made up of an inner and an outer layer. The inner layer is called the nucleus. It’s a soft gel-like substance. The outer layer is the annulus. It is made of tough, cartilage-like tissue.

Q: Who needs an artificial disc?

A: Typically, patients who receive an artificial disc implant are those with pain arising from a disc that has not responded to non-surgical treatment. Common non-surgical treatments include medication, rest, and physical therapy.

Q: What are the different kinds of artificial disc replacement surgery?

A: In general there are two types of artificial disc replacement surgery. The first type is total disc replacement. With total disc replacement, the entire spinal disc is removed and an artificial disc is implanted in its place. The second type of artificial disc replacement surgery is disc nucleus replacement. Rather than removing the entire disc, this type of surgery replaces only the nucleus of the spinal disc.

Q: Who is a candidate for artificial disc replacement surgery?

A: The best way to determine whether or not you are a good candidate for artificial disc replacement surgery is to see a doctor who specializes in the procedure. When you do, the doctor may run certain tests. These may include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), discography, computed tomography (CT) scan, and X-rays. The best candidates for the procedure will also meet the following criteria: have back pain caused by a spinal disc, be free from facet joint disease, be of a healthy weight, have had no prior surgeries on the spine, and have no deformity or scoliosis of the spine.

Q: What are artificial discs made of? 

A: While this can vary depending on the specific type of implant, total artificial discs are typically made from a combination of medical grade plastic and medical grade steel. Nucleus implants can be made from a variety of materials, including hydrogels, inflatables, injectable fluids, or elastic coils.

Q: What’s the difference between spinal fusion and disc replacement?

A: Spinal fusion is a technique used to treat the pain associated with degenerative disc disease. It does this by removing the damaged spinal disc and fusing the remaining vertebrae together to inhibit movement. Artificial disc replacement is used to treat the same condition. However, instead of fusing the bones together, it implants a prosthetic device between them to function as a spinal disc. The primary difference between the two procedures is that disc replacement allows the patient to retain movement, while spinal fusion does not.

Q: What Is a herniated disc?

A: A herniated disc refers to a condition that results when the nucleus of a spinal disc pushes against the outer ring of the disc due to wear or injury. If the disc is cracked or torn, the nucleus might squeeze out through the outer ring. When this hernia pushes against the spinal nerves it can cause pain, numbness, or weakness. Depending on where the hernia occurs, symptoms may be present in the back, buttocks, legs, feet, arms, and hands.

Q: How is a herniated disc different from a bulging, slipped, or ruptured disc?

A: In general, they all refer to the same condition. However some doctors may use them differently – for example, they may call it a bulge when the nucleus pushes against the outer layer, and they may call it a hernia when the nucleus is actually protruding.

Contact a Los Angeles Artificial Disc Expert

Back problems are among the most common causes of pain and disability in the United States. But you don’t have to suffer in silence. Dr. Hyun Bae is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with expertise in artificial disc replacement surgery. Don’t hesitate to contact him today (888) 309-2848 for your consultation.

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