Many people who suffer from back and neck pain have considered the idea of having surgery, then changed their minds after having been told that their only option was a spinal fusion. Though spinal fusion was long considered one of the best options for neck pain, many of those suffering from pain have opted out upon learning how limited their range of motion would be, as well as the possibility that they would need additional surgery in the future. Now, as technology has advanced, those same patients are choosing a newer, minimally invasive procedure called cervical disc replacement that offers better range of motion along with pain relief.
Cervical disc replacement is an excellent option for those who have been impacted by a degenerative process in the spine. At the same time that cervical discs break down, a similar process is weakening the ligaments supporting the spine, and the bones are also going through their own transformation, adding bony spurs that can contribute to pain. There are several conservative remedies that can be attempted prior to choosing surgery, but if those don’t provide relief, the disc replacement surgery may be the right answer.
There are several advantages that disc replacement offers over spinal fusion. In addition to preserving motion, it does not put the same type of pressure on surrounding discs as can result when bones are fused together. Additionally, it eliminates the potential for some of the complications that can occur when a patient undergoes spinal fusion while providing a much faster recovery time. Patients are often back to their normal activities within six to eight weeks of their procedure.
When our cervical spine specialty practice in New Jersey performs a cervical disc replacement procedure, the process begins with an incision being made in the front of the neck and the affected disc being entirely removed. Our surgeon will closely inspect the surgical site to ensure that there are no bone spurs or disc fragments left behind that may put pressure on adjacent nerves, and then adjusts the cervical space back to where it had originally been before the degenerative process took place. Only once this procedure is completed and an adequate compartment is created will an artificial disc be inserted and implanted and the incision sutured shut.
Most patients recover quickly from this procedure and are back home within 24 hours. Though there are obvious limitations on activity in the days immediately following surgery which your surgeon will discuss with you, in most cases patients heal quickly. Most are permitted to drive within a week and can return to work within two weeks, depending on how strenuous their work activities are, and most do not require any time of follow-up therapy.
The positive impact of cervical disc replacement can be seen in both the return to normal activity and the relief of pain that has been experienced by our patients. For information on whether you are a candidate for cervical disc replacement or what other treatment may be appropriate for your neck and back pain, contact our office today to set up an appointment.