When the news headlines are focusing on neck or back surgery, it seems like the patients involved are usually football players, or others who engage in contact sports. But people from all walks of life and all types of athletic endeavors can be struck by a herniated disc (or two, or more), and the most recent celebrity surgery was done on Olympic silver medalist Amanda Weir, who’s won medals in Athens, Rio and London. The 31-year-old had disc replacement surgery just a few weeks back, and she is already back to training for her sport and competing in the fall.
The news came as a shock to Weir’s fans, who had no idea that she was in pain or having any type of trouble until she posted a photo of herself on Instagram just an hour or so before her surgery. The operation took place at Emory University’s Orthopedics & Spine Hospital, near her hometown of Lawrenceville, Georgia. Weir’s post read, “Let’s do this! Getting a couple new discs in my neck today so I can get back to doing what I love,” and featured the hashtags #herniateddiscs, #bringonthetitanium, #spinesurgery, and #tryingnottofreakout.
Her brother Caleb kept fans updated on her progress, letting them know that the surgery was complete and was viewed as successful, and reporting that her physicians had indicated that she’d need just 3 weeks of recovery time before getting back into the pool.
The swimmer first became aware that she had a medical problem when she began experiencing should pain last spring. Those initial twinges were followed by a progressive loss of power in her stroke, and when her performance continued to suffer, she decided to seek out medical help. “USA Swimming flew her out to Colorado Springs to check out what was wrong,” her brother explained. Following an MRI and consultation with physicians, the decision was made that neck surgery provided the best answer.
Though specific details about Weir’s surgery have not been made publicly available, her hashtagged reference to titanium implies that rather than undergoing fusion surgery that eliminates motion where the disc disease exists, she likely had artificial disc for cervical disc replacement. This is an option for patients suffering from symptomatic cervical disc problems who need to maintain the original range of motion between the bones in their neck. In these instances, an artificial cervical disc is inserted between the vertebrae to replace the damaged disc. In a case like Ms. Weir’s, this would provide her with both pain relief and a return to the original range of motion that helped propel her to her elite athlete status.
For patients who are experiencing similar levels of discomfort (usually indicated by pain in the arm), the use of an artificial disc for cervical disc replacement can offer several advantages, including:
• The ability to maintain normal neck motion
• A fast return to function post-surgery
• A reduction in risk of disc disease in nearby areas of the neck
• Elimination of risk of complications associated with bone graft
To determine what the best answer is for your particular situation, contact us today to set up an appointment for a consultation.