Cervical discs can shift or break down for a number of reasons, and when that happens, you’ll want to pursue some active treatment options, because it won’t get better if you try to just power through the pain. Conservative care options can yield great results, but they don’t work for everybody. If non-surgical options aren’t addressing your pain, or you have a more advanced problem with a cervical disc, than a replacement operation may be necessary.
One such surgical procedure is called a total cervical disc replacement, and as the name suggests, it involves the removal of the damaged cervical disc and the implementation of an artificial disc that mimics that movements of a healthy disc. Here’s a closer look at why you might need a total cervical disc replacement, and how the operation is performed.
The Need For Cervical Disc Replacement
Our discs naturally degenerate as we age, but they can also be damaged by acute force from an activity like a sports injury or car accident. When these discs become damaged, they can shift out of place and compress nearby structures, leading to pain or dysfunction. As we noted above, many cervical disc problems respond well to conservative care techniques like rest, exercise, anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy. But if the disc issue doesn’t respond, a disc replacement operation may do the trick.
There are a few surgical operations that can take care of the issue, but a cervical disc replacement operation has some unique benefits. For example, artificial disc replacement allows you to keep more mobility at the disc replacement site, which means you’ll retain more range of motion in your neck. Also, because the disc mimics the movements of a healthy disc, you’re not putting abnormal stress on other areas of your spine. Sometimes a spinal fusion operation can lead to increased stress on different spinal discs, which can predispose them to shifting or injury.
Cervical Disc Replacement Surgery
Your surgeon will walk you through the specifics of your operation, but here’s a basic overview of what you can expect during your cervical disc replacement operation.
You will be placed under general anesthesia and asleep for the operation. Your surgeon will make a small incision on the front of your neck in order to access the problemed disc. Using specialized tools, the damaged disc will be removed and disc spacers will be inserted to maintain the integrity of spinal column while the artificial disc is being prepped and inserted.
After the damaged disc is removed the surgeon will insert the artificial disc into the correct location to ensure a perfect fit. Once installed, the surgeon will then take a few X-rays or use a live X-ray to confirm that the device is housed in the right location. Once satisfied with its positioning, the doctor will close the small incision with absorbable stitches and the patient will be carefully taken to a recovery ward.
The procedure takes about an hour per level treated, and most patients will be discharged on the same day, making this an outpatient procedure. This minimally invasive, motion preservation operation leads to quick recovery times, and patients can return to non-physical work within a day or two. Recovery protocols include rest, pain medications and physical therapy.
To learn more about total cervical disc replacement, or to talk to a surgeon about your neck pain, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi today.