These days hip and knee replacements have become commonplace surgeries. People who once had to live with pain and limited mobility can now replace a damaged joint with a prosthetic and lead healthier, happier lives. Many don’t know it, but the same is also true of spinal discs. Degeneration and injury of spinal discs are among the leading causes of back pain. But those can also be replaced. There are actually a couple different types of artificial discs that can be implanted to cushion the gap between vertebrae and eliminate the source of back pain for many.
You don’t have to go on living with neck and back pain. Contact Dr. Hyun Bae, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and back pain expert, to find out how an artificial disc could help you.
Total Disc Replacement
A total disc replacement refers to a surgical procedure in which the entire spinal disc is removed. This is typically done to correct for age related degeneration (also known as degenerative disc disease) or injury. When either of these conditions occur, the tough outer layer of the spinal disc can become cracked or torn. This leads to the gel-like inner layer bulging or oozing out the tears. Some people feel nothing at all when this happens. But for others, the damaged disc begins pressing on a nerve and causing a variety of back pain symptoms.
While a majority of patient’s symptoms clear up in a matter of weeks or months, some don’t. In these cases, disc replacement surgery may be an option. Total disc replacement uses a device with two metal plates. One is attached to the vertebrae above, and the other to the vertebrae below. Between them a compressible spacer is installed to simulate the function of the natural spinal disc nucleus. The result is a prosthetic device that completely replaces the original damaged disc, while retaining movement (unlike spinal fusion).
Disc Nucleus Replacement
Similar to the total disc replacement, disc nucleus replacement is a procedure done to address the problems associated with degenerative disc disease and other damage to the spinal discs. However, instead of replacing the entire spinal disc as in total disc replacement, disc nucleus replacement only affects the nucleus – or center – of the disc.
Because the nucleus of spinal discs is made up of a soft, gel-like substance, it can begin to bulge or herniate. Disc nucleus replacement is done by making a small incision in the outer layer of the disc. The nucleus is then removed and an artificial nucleus is implanted in its place. This helps to restore the nucleus and eliminate the source of the hernia.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are replacement discs made of?
A: The exact construction of a total replacement disc or a nucleus replacement disc depends on the specific device. However, total replacement discs are usually comprised of a combination of surgical grade steel and a plastic-like substance. Nucleus replacement discs are can be made of injectable fluids, hydrogels, inflatable, and elastic coils.
Q: What are the advantages of disc replacement over spinal fusion?
A: Total disc replacement and disc nucleus replacement are newer surgeries than spinal fusion and have been gaining in popularity over recent years. The reason is that they allow for better range of movement than spinal fusion and may also allow for a quicker recovery with less pain.
Q: What are the risks associated with disc replacement surgery?
A: The risks are similar to those of spinal fusion. These include but are not limited to infection, injury to blood vessels and nerves, development of new pain, and sexual dysfunction. You should always discuss the risks and possible side effects with your surgeon before undergoing any surgical procedure.
Q: How long does the disc replacement procedure take?
A: This depends on the type of surgery you are having and where it is on the spine. On average, however, surgery takes between 1-3 hours.
Contact a Los Angeles Disc Replacement Expert
Do you suffer from back or neck pain due to a damaged spinal disc? Dr. Hyun Bae is a leading Los Angeles orthopedic surgeon. Contact him today at (888) 309-2848 to set up your first appointment and find out if disc replacement surgery is right for you.
Next, read about cervical disc replacement.