Between each bone (vertebrae) of the spine are discs. An intervertebral disc is the cushion and acts as a shock absorber. Each disc provides support, flexibility, and protects the spinal cord. In the center of the disc is the nucleus pulposus, which is a gel-like substance surrounded by an outer layer called the annulus fibrosus.
When a person is in need to a disc replacement, disc prosthesis, or spine arthroplasty, an artificial disc is used. The device is inserted in between the disc space to provide support and mobility. Because no two people are the same, there are several disc designs to accommodate for the root cause of complication. The types of artificial discs are divided into two groups: (1) total disc replacement and (2) disc nucleus replacement.
A total disc replacement, the entire disc is removed and replaced with a completed restructured device to fit perfectly in the space. A disc nucleus replacement requires the nucleus to be removed from the disc and replaced with an implant. The annulus fibrosus stays intact.
Artificial discs can be made from metal, a plastic-like material, or a combination of both. Disc replacement surgery has been practiced since the 1980s. The most common design is made of two plates: one that attaches to the vertebrae on top of the disc, and the other to the vertebrae beneath the disc. The devices are designed to promote smooth mobility along curved surfaces and ease.
A good candidate for disc prosthesis is one who has had little or no improvements with non-operative techniques including medication, injection therapies, chiropractic care, or physical therapy. A physician will usually order an MRI scan to show where the disc degeneration is occurring. A discography can tell which disc is the cause of your pain. Based off the images, a review of your medical history, and a physician exam, a physician can determine where your source of pain is and if surgical intervention will be beneficial.
In some cases, there are conditions that will prevent a patient’s ability to receive a disc replacement. Some conditions include:
- Spinal tumor
- Vertebral fracture
There are multiple approaches to disc replacement surgery: Anterior, posterior, and lateral are ways in which a surgeon can implant the device.
There are risk factors associated with a disc replacement surgery. Talk with your doctor about your options for treating a spine condition. For more information, talk with an American Spine specialist to find out what other options you have for improving your life and managing your pain.
At American Spine, we are dedicated to treating chronic pain and spine conditions. Offering the latest in minimally invasive spine surgery and other effective treatment options, American Spine is the leading pain physician group of California. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call us at (951)-734-PAIN (7246)
The advice and information contained in this article is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.