When it comes to spinal fusion vs disc replacement, it’s important for patients to know their options. In the past, spinal fusion was the only surgical choice for treating degenerative disc disease. Today, however, that’s not the case. While disc replacement surgery is a relatively new development, the feedback from patients and doctors alike has shown that it actually works as well or better than spinal fusion surgery.
Dr. Hyun Bae is a world-renowned orthopedic surgeon and expert in disc replacement surgery. Don’t hesitate to contact him today to learn more about your options.
What is Spinal Fusion?
Pain due to degenerative disc disease occurs in the back when the soft, gel-like center of the spinal disc begins to lose moisture. Typically, this happens with age. And when it does, the outer layer of the disc can crack or tear, allowing the center, or nucleus, to bulge out. This process often puts pressure on the nerves of the spine and causes a variety of symptoms, including numbness, pain, and weakness.
Spinal fusion is the traditional approach to treating degenerative disc disease. The surgery entails fusing a direct bony connection between the vertebrae on either side of the damaged disc or discs. The purpose of spinal fusion is to reduce pain by stopping the motion of the disc or discs that were causing pain.
What is Disc Replacement?
Disc replacement seeks to treat the pain of degenerative disc disease in a different way than spinal fusion. While both involve removing the damaged disc, disc replacement exchanges the disc for an artificial device.
There are two different types of artificial disc replacement surgery. One type replaces the entire disc. This surgery removes the damaged disc and implants a new disc made of metal and plastic. This is done by attaching a metal plate to the vertebra above the disc and another metal plate to the vertebra below the disc. A medical grade plastic is then placed between these plates to simulate the original disc nucleus. Over time, the bones of the vertebrae grow over the metal plates, and the natural weight of the body compresses the plastic between them.
The second type of disc replacement surgery is called disc nucleus replacement. With this procedure, the soft nucleus of the disc alone is replaced, leaving the outer layer in tact. This is done by cutting open the outer layer to remove the nucleus and then filling the space with a prosthetic nucleus made from materials such as injectable fluids, hydrogels, inflatables, or elastic coils.
Benefits of Artificial Discs
Despite being a relatively new technology, the advantages of artificial disc replacement are numerous. Overall, patients are typically happier with their surgery after an artificial disc replacement than with spinal fusion. This is because disc replacement allows the patient to retain movement between the vertebrae. In spinal fusion, the two vertebrae are fixed together, making it impossible for the patient to regain a full range of motion.
This can also lead to added stress on the spine above and below the fusion site, causing the bone to break down faster. Another advantage of artificial disc replacement is that with the ability to move more, patients often experience a faster and less painful recovery. Studies have also shown that patients with artificial disc are significantly less likely to need additional surgeries than those who had spinal fusion operations.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is disc replacement still an experimental surgery?
A: While it is a newer surgery than spinal fusion, disc replacement has been used to successfully treat degenerative disc disease in the United States and Europe for some time. It has also been studied in laboratories for almost forty years.
Q: Is disc replacement more dangerous than spinal fusion?
A: No. The side effects of disc replacement are similar to those of spinal surgery. You should talk to your doctor, however, for a complete list of potential risks and complications.
Q: Why should I choose to have my disc replacement surgery at La Peer Surgery Center?
A: In addition to staffing the top doctors and surgeons from around the world, La Peer also offers newly renovated, cutting-edge facilities in the heart of Beverly Hills.
Contact a Los Angeles Disc Replacement Surgeon
Don’t let back pain detract from your quality of life any longer. Contact Dr. Bae, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon, to see how the latest advancements in artificial disc replacement can help you start feeling good again. Simply call (888) 309-2848 to set up an appointment.
Next, read about cervical disc replacement.