An intervertebral disc is a soft structure that provides cushioning between individual vertebrae in the spine. During an artificial disc replacement, Dr. Henry replaces an intervertebral disc with a new man-made disc. This device mimics the function of a normal disc, thus eliminating the patient’s pain.
Two basic types of artificial disc procedures exist: disc nucleus replacement and total disc replacement. During a disc nucleus replacement, Dr. Henry removes and replaces only the center of the disc, which is known as the “nucleus.” During a total disc replacement, on the other hand, Dr. Henry removes and replaces the entire disc.
In general, a disc replacement is appropriate when the patient’s pain arises from a damaged intervertebral disc and cannot be improved with physical therapy, injections, medication, or any other non-invasive method. To determine whether a patient is a candidate for this procedure, Dr. Henry may perform a variety of tests, including a physical examination, CT scans, X-rays, MRIs, and discography.
Certain conditions may make a disc replacement an inappropriate choice. For example, patients with spinal infections, osteoporosis, or morbid obesity may not be able to undergo artificial disc replacement.
Artificial disc replacement is a surgery and, as a result, carries certain risks. Some of the risks associated with the surgery itself include infection, bleeding, injury to blood vessels, and problems with anesthesia. Following the surgery, risks include continued pain, worsening pain, new pain, dislodgement of the artificial disc, or breakage of the disc. However, complications are rare.
Patients who undergo artificial disc replacement must be hospitalized during and after the procedure. During the first few days after the surgery, the patient will participate in physical therapy at the hospital. Patients will also receive instructions for continuing physical therapy on their own at home. After being discharged, the patient may need to participate in outpatient physical therapy as well.
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