What Is a Cervical Disc Replacement?
The cervical area of your spine is the upper back and neck region. The bones in your spine have rubbery discs between them that provide cushioning and prevent the bones from rubbing together. A cervical disc replacement is a minimally invasive technique that allows your neurosurgeon to replace a disc when it can no longer function properly.
Why Get a Cervical Disc Replacement?
When something goes wrong with a disc in your neck, you can develop a cervical disc herniation. With this condition, the fluid inside the disc bulges out, causing your vertebrae to rub together. The painful symptoms of this condition reduce your ability to do all the things you enjoy.
Another reason you may need an artificial cervical disc replacement is cervical degenerative disc disease, a form of osteoarthritis that causes inflammation and severe pain. Over time, the discs that provide padding between your neck vertebrae get worn out. Whether it’s due to a disease or natural wear and tear, these disc problems can cause a wide range of symptoms, including:
- Neck pain
- Migraine headaches
- Tingling sensations
- Stiffness in your neck and shoulders
- Muscle spasms
- Inability to turn your head from side to side or up and down
- Nerve damage
- Balance and coordination problems
These issues range from simply annoying to causing serious physical damage and hampering your quality of life. If you’re having serious neck pain or other issues, cervical disc replacement may be your best option, especially when it’s done by the best spine surgeon in the area. Dr. Skovrlj always recommends the most appropriate treatment for you based on your diagnosis.
What Conditions Does a Cervical Disc Replacement Treat?
In the past, degenerating discs typically were treated with a spinal fusion, during which the damaged disc was taken out and the two vertebrae were turned into one. However, this procedure often led to decreased mobility and long recovery periods. Fusion is an invasive process, which is why Dr. Skovrlj at NU-Spine prefers minimally invasive spine surgery. You will too.
Procedures like artificial cervical disc replacement surgery relieve pain and return you to full mobility faster and with fewer complications. It’s commonly used to treat:
- Cervical disc herniation. When one or more cervical discs get damaged, the soft middle pushes its way out through the tough lining. This bulging or protrusion presses against nerves, which causes serious pain. The symptoms of a herniation are very similar to a cervical slipped or bulging disc, which also responds well to a cervical disc replacement.
- Cervical degenerative disc disease. This disease can lead to bulging discs, but it also causes your cervical discs to deteriorate and shrink. Your cervical vertebrae become less mobile, end up grinding against each other and cause excruciating pain.
- Cervical radiculopathy. With cervical radiculopathy, your nerve roots get compressed, which causes pain. A cervical disc replacement eases that pressure and relieves the pain.
- Cervical myelopathy. This condition may or may not cause serious pain, but it reflects pressure on your spinal cord, which can lead to permanent damage. This damage creates permanent problems with coordination and balance, making it a prime candidate for this cervical disc replacement, sooner rather than later.
Your NJ spine surgeon also can do a revision surgery if you’ve had a failed cervical disc replacement in the past. Your procedure depends on the underlying source of your pain.
What Is the Procedure for a Cervical Disc Replacement Surgery?
Cervical disc replacement is a surgery, but it can be done safely in a minimally invasive way. After tests and evaluations confirm a diagnosis, you and your doctor decide that a cervical disc replacement can solve your issues. You then undergo a thorough consultation so that you know what to expect and how to prepare. During the procedure:
- You have to fast and possibly stop some of your medications for a period before the surgery.
- Artificial cervical disc replacement surgery usually happens under general anesthesia so that you’re unconscious throughout.
- A small incision is made in your neck through which cameras and tiny tools are inserted.
- The degenerated disc is removed and a composite material put in place.
- The procedure lasts a few hours.
- You likely need to spend a couple days in the hospital.
- Most people can get back to a full range of activities within six weeks.