Disk Replacement

Low back pain is sometimes a cause of disability in the United States and worldwide. At least 70 to 80% of people experience low back pain at some point in their lives. Artificial disk replacement is a new surgical procedure which can relieve low back pain. It is similar to the hip and knee joint replacements. The disk replacement substitutes the intervertebral disk in the spine with a mechanical device. The device will restore motion to the spine and it will replace the worn and degenerated disk.

This technology was used in Europe for more than ten years. Artificial disk replacement got the FDA approval for use in the US in the year 2004. Over the past years many other disk replacement designs are being developed and are currently being tested.

Lumbar fusion surgery is used for treating low back pain in patients who cannot be cured by other non surgical methods. Many people who are suffering from low back pain get relief with lumbar fusion, but the results may vary. For example a patient with spinal stenosis who has a fusion procedure may have a different result from a patient who does the fusion to help back pain which is caused by disk regeneration.

Moreover there are patients who undergo fusion surgeries which heal perfectly; still they do not find any improvement in their back pain. The failure can be improved after the surgery, but some doctors believe that it is because fusion prevents normal motion in the spin. For low back pain artificial disk replacement is an alternative treatment option.

To find who can be a good candidate for disk replacement, the surgeon will require you to do a few tests. These tests may include discography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), x-rays, and CT scan. These tests will help surgeons to determine the source of the pain. Candidates for disk replacement should have:

  • Not be overweight
  • Back pain which is caused from one or two intervertebral disks in the lumbar spine
  • No facet joint disease or bony compression on nerves
  • No kind of deformity
  • No surgery done before in the lumbar spine

The surgical implantation procedure is performed through an incision in the abdomen. This is similar to the anterior lumbar inter body fusion.

During this procedure the organs and blood vessels have to be moved to the side. This will allow your surgeon to focus on the spine without moving the other nerves.

A vascular surgeon will assist the orthopedic surgeon with the opening and exposure of the disk space. The surgery will take about two to three hours. It is important that you gather information about this procedure before you think of undergoing it.

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