A cervical disc replacement might be considered if a cervical disc is injured. It involves replacing the injured disc with an artificial disc. An artificial disc works similarly to a regular disc and may be a viable option compared to spinal fusion.
What is Cervical Disc Replacement?
Cervical disc replacement, also known as cervical artificial disc replacement, is a surgery that replaces damaged or degenerated intervertebral discs with artificial ones that let your neck move freely. It is a procedure conducted on the neck that aims to relieve arm brachialgia and cervical radiculopathy, which is caused by a herniated disc.
The procedure is usually done to preserve motion and prevent degeneration at other levels of the spine. It also relieves pain in the cervical spine caused by the compression of nerves. Although this procedure may seem similar to an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF), an artificial disc is implanted into the disc space, rather than fusing the spine.
What are the Benefits of Cervical Disc Replacement?
While both fusion and cervical disc replacement come with a relatively low risk of complications, the cervical disc replacement does not require a bone graft, and thus, there is no need to worry about the bones fusing properly after the procedure.
Cervical disc replacement can cause fewer issues in neighboring discs since the prosthesis allows for more natural neck motion than a fusion. The artificial disc can help preserve mobility, but it cannot create or improve it. Your spine’s range of motion is unlikely to improve following the procedure. In general, patients who are eligible for both fusion and disc replacement and choose disc replacement do so because of the preservation of mobility and motion.
Cervical Disc Replacement Procedure
A surgeon approaches the cervical spine from the anterior side in order to perform routine disc replacement surgery. The average single-level cervical disc replacement surgery takes around an hour to complete.
There are several steps involved in performing a cervical disc replacement surgery:
- The patient is given to become unconscious and prevents discomfort during the surgery.
- A surgeon makes an incision in the neck’s front, usually one to two inches.
- Any disc fragments or osteophytes (bone spurs) pressing against the nerve roots or spinal cord are removed with the damaged disc.
- The disc space is restored to its normal disc height to help relieve pressure on the surrounding nerves.
- A fluoroscopy or live x-ray image guides the surgeon to place the artificial disc into the prepared disc space. The surgeon may try several sizes of artificial discs before settling on the best fit. Different types of artificial discs require different methods of implanting them.
- After the artificial disc has been implanted and joined to both the above and below vertebrae, the surgeon closes the incision.
Recovery from Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery
A degree of discomfort and pain typically follows cervical disc replacement surgery in the days and weeks following the procedure. Some patients may experience pain around the site of the incision at the front of their necks.
Other symptoms, like trouble swallowing or speaking, may also occur. The pain and symptoms of the surgery can usually be appropriately managed and addressed as the healing process progresses.
Most patients go home the day of their cervical disc replacement surgery, but some stay the night. The patient will receive the following services during their stay in the hospital:
- Pain relievers
- A liquid diet before switching to solids.
- Advice on incision care and pain management at home
- Walk and climb stairs with assistance
The patient may go home as soon as they can manage stairs, eat solid food, and go to the bathroom.
Recovery at Home from a Cervical Disc Replacement
When a patient first arrives at home, the recovery plan may include relaxing and limiting daily activities. For digestion and exercise, the patient may walk short distances frequently. To minimize discomfort during the first few days, a cervical collar may be prescribed to wear at home. In some cases, the surgeon may recommend physical therapy as part of the recovery process to help the neck regain some flexibility and strength.
As with any spine or neck surgery, a qualified spine surgeon can help determine which procedure or procedures are likely to have the best outcome for your condition and lifestyle. Dr. Butler has extensive experience with cervical disc replacement surgery and works with patients to provide the best care for their life and circumstances. To schedule an appointment, complete this form.