Will Disc Replacement Surgery Help in the Treatment of Cervical Radiculopathy?

Published: 01st June 2011
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Disc replacement is a surgical procedure that is an option for treating cervical radiculopathy – a herniated disc in the neck area. The procedure has seen more success on the cervical region, but is also prescribed for the lumbar, or lower back area. Approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2004 for the lumbar region and in 2007 for the cervical region, disc replacement was developed as an alternative to spinal fusion, in which the vertebrae are fused together rather than replacing the natural cushion, or disc.

A herniated disc occurs when a disc becomes brittle from age and dehydration and the center or core of the disc pushes to the outer edges and flattens out, providing less padding between the bones. When a disc in either area of the spine is herniated, it comes into contact with nerve fibers stemming off from the spinal cord and causes pain, either in the back area or the arms or legs – depending on where the nerves are connected to the rest of the body.

Who Needs Disc Replacement Surgery

A herniated, ruptured or slipped disc requiring disc replacement can be recommended by a physician for three reasons, an injury to the back, degeneration caused by an aging body, or idiopathic reasons in which genetic, congenital or environmental condition predisposes a patient to severe back pain needing surgery. Artificial disc replacement surgery is indicated for the cervical region when a patient suffers from severe degenerative disc disease, in which the individual cannot tolerate the movement of the back.

When a patient’s body does not respond to other forms of pain therapy including physical therapy, massage, specialized pain therapies including injections, blocks, radiofrequency electrical nerve stimulation, prescription medications and other treatments, surgery is an option. A disc replacement removes a disc and replaces it with a new one while preserving the motion of the spine at the level that it’s used. Not all patients with a herniated disc need disc replacement. When a disc causes so much pain that the individual is not able to carry out work and leisure activities, even after trying several types of pain management techniques, this surgery may be indicated. Patients are carefully selected for disc replacement and not everyone is a candidate.

The Procedure of Disc Replacement

Several artificial discs have been developed since the FDA approval. One such disc is the LINK SB Charite III prosthesis developed out of Germany. The disc itself has two metallic plates have teeth in them to connect to the bone, and a rubber core made of polyurethane is between them. The core has a ring of metal around it so that it shows up in x-rays. During a disc replacement, the ruptured disc is removed by scraping it off of the bone. The vertebrae are held open by specialized tools to keep them separated, and the artificial disc is implanted. A potential benefit of replacing a disc is to preserve not only the movement at the site of the new disc, but to take pressure off of the lower portions that are adjacent to the damaged disc.

Please note that if you are feeling back pain and are told that you have a herniated disc, this does not necessarily mean that you need surgery. Follow doctor’s instructions for healthy rehabilitation and have a good attitude about recovery and you may not need disc replacement.



If you suffer from chronic back or neck pain, the Spine Center at Florida Hospital Fish Memorial offers back and neck pain relief. http://www.TalkBacktoPain.com



If you are looking for additional information about chronic back pain read http://hubpages.com/hub/The-Marvelous-Amazing-Back


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