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Artificial Disc Surgery

Artificial Disc Surgery is sometimes recommended for patients who have degenerative disc disease. The surgery, called spinal arthroplasty, is only recommended in adults with degenerative disc disease in one disc, located from L4 to S1.

The artificial disc replaces the disease or damaged disc with one made of plastic, metal or ceramic. Each is made with different connecting devices and comes in different sizes and angles. The surgeon determines which one will provide the patient with the best outcome.

For many years, spinal fusion was the only option for patients with chronic pain from a degenerated disc. The surgery, which is still a viable and useful procedure is done using a bone graft to fuse two or more vertebral bones together. This stabilizes the spine, but that level of the spine is solid and does not allow twisting or bending.

The benefits of artificial disc surgery is that is completely removes the diseased or damaged disc, restores vertebral height, decreases pain, preserves movement and has a relatively quick recovery. However, not everyone is a candidate for this surgery. Patients with degenerative disc disease in more than one disc or with osteoporosis, arthritis or certain allergies are not candidates for an artificial disc.

Learn what to expect from surgery

Under general anesthesia, the surgeon makes a single incision a few inches in length in the patient’s abdomen. An anterior approach to the surgery provides a better view of the spine. Moving aside muscles and surrounding organs, the surgeon can remove part of the damaged disc. Then, the bones are spread open and the remaining portion of the disc is removed. A microscope scans the region to ensure that all material is removed and bone spurs are shaved off the site.

The disc space is moved to its proper height, which also removes pressure on the nerves. Under fluoroscopic guidance, the artificial disc is inserted into the space. Images are taken to ensure that the disc fits correctly and is in the optimal location.

Most patients remain in the hospital for about three to five days. Recovery from this surgery is quick, with patients up and walking the same day of surgery. Limit any lifting to nothing more than 10 pounds for four to six weeks. Patients are encouraged to do light, low-impact exercise, such as walking, biking or swimming. Based on the type of job, patients can return to work in two to four weeks. Patients who have jobs that require heavy lifting may need to be reassigned for three months.