herniated-discBack pain is one of the leading causes of disability and discomfort in the United States. For many, this pain comes from a problem with the intervertebral discs that cushion and separate the vertebrae of the spine. These discs can decay due to age or injury, and when they do, back pain is often the result. Artificial disc replacement is a new surgery designed to relieve back pain by replacing worn or damaged discs and allowing the spine to function properly again.

If you experience chronic back pain, contact Dr. Hyun Bae to see if you qualify for artificial disc replacement surgery.

What Is an Artificial Disc?

The disc is the soft cushion located between the vertebrae. The purpose of the disc is to provide padding for the spine while enabling flexibility and movement. When these discs start to break down, however, they may need to be replaced. Their replacement is called an artificial disc.

An artificial disc is a type of prosthesis that is implanted in the spine in place of the natural disc. Artificial discs replacements are commonly divided into two types. There is the total disc replacement and the disc nucleus replacement. With a total disc replacement, the entire disc is removed and an artificial disc is implanted in the space between the vertebrae. In a disc nucleus replacement, the center of the disc alone is removed and replaced.

What Are Artificial Discs Made Of?

The two most commonly used materials in artificial discs are biopolymer (a type of plastic-like material) and surgical grade steel. Depending on the disc, they can be made of one material or the other, or a combination of both. Most artificial discs have two plates – one that attached to the vertebra above, and one that attaches to the vertebra below. Between these two plates is a malleable plastic-like component that allows the plates to move in a natural way. Nucleus replacement discs are made of biopolymer materials that simulate the natural disc center.

Who Needs an Artificial Disc?

Because they put their bodies through so much wear-and-tear, athletes commonly suffer from disc injuries. Typically, surgery is not considered for disc-related back pain until the patient has tried other, nonsurgical treatments and found them ineffective. Common nonsurgical treatments include physical therapy and medication.

In the past, the primary surgical treatment for disc pain was spinal fusion surgery. This involves removing the damaged disc and replacing it with bone, thus fusing the two vertebrae. The downside of spinal fusion is that it eliminates movement of the spine. There is also the possibility that it can damage the disc above or below the fusion by causing the vertebrae to carry more weight and motion than before. Artificial discs, however, let the spine continue to move in a more natural fashion. Artificial discs also allow for a faster recovery time than spinal fusion, as the patient is encouraged to return to motion sooner.

Disc Replacement Surgery

The disc replacement procedure is done by first removing the damaged disc. Once the disc is gone, metal plates are pressed on the vertebrae at the top and bottom. Between them goes the plastic spacer. Eventually, the patient’s bone will grow over the metal plates and the patient’s own body weight will compress the spacer. Recovery is often faster for disc replacement surgery than spinal fusion, and there is generally less pain and a lower risk of complications.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are the risks of disc replacement surgery?

A: While the FDA has approved disc replacement surgery for use in the United States, it is a relatively new procedure. As such, the long-term risks are not yet known.

Q: How long will it take to recover after surgery?

A: Most patients are up and walking within a day, while hospital stay often lasts one to two weeks. Certain activities will be restricted within the first month, but most people return to normal activity within six to eight weeks.

Contact a Los Angeles Artificial Disc Replacement Expert

Like knee and hip replacements, artificial disc replacement is helping more and more people eliminate pain and increase their mobility. If you think you might benefit from an artificial spinal disc, don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Bae today for a consultation. Simply call (888) 309-2848 to set up your first appointment.

Next, read about cervical disc replacement.