Cervical Disc Arthroplasty
Cervical Disc Arthroplasty (Replacement) relieves pain caused by the diseased discs between the upper seven vertebrae of the spine (aka the neck area) by removing the problematic disc and replacing it with an artificial disc. Some patients who have more than one disc that needs replacing may require multi-level disc replacement surgery (which can be performed on adjacent or non-adjacent discs).
What Symptoms Does Cervical Disc Arthroplasty Treat?
Patients typically complain of neck pain or stiffness, pain that radiates from shoulder to arm and hand, weakness in shoulders, arms or legs, or numbness and or tingling in the arms and fingers.
Cervical Disc Arthroplasty vs. Spinal Fusion
Prior to the availability of cervical disc arthroplasty, spinal fusion was the only option. With spinal fusion, the damaged disc is removed and the bones are grafted together for stabilization. Although this is still a very acceptable treatment option in many circumstances, the fusion prevents the bones from ever moving again, and can impair a patient’s mobility.
Disc replacement, on the other hand, is a motion preserving alternative that involves replacing the damaged disc with an artificial disc and allowing the bones to maintain their natural range of motion, thereby maintaining the patient’s mobility.
What Happens During Surgery?
Cervical Disc Arthroplasty can usually be completed on an outpatient basis (or 23 hr stay) under general anesthesia. A one- to two-inch incision is made, the disc that is being replaced is removed to relieve pressure on the associate nerves and spinal cord, and the artificial disc is secured in its place. The incision is closed using sutures that will absorb (dissolve) under the skin to ensure minimal scarring.
Cervical Disc Arthroplasty Outcomes
While not all patients are ideal candidates for single or multiple disc replacement surgery, studies point to significantly superior outcomes with regard to quality of life (neck mobility) and neurological success (muscle strength, reflexes, etc.). Additionally, recent studies suggest that patients are less likely to need a second surgery if their discs are replaced rather than fused.
Overall, patients are often back to work in one week and physical therapy, if needed, is usually completed within six weeks.