Spinal discs are small cushions between the vertebrae or spine. They assist in the movement and flexibility of the spinal column. Due to aging or accident trauma, the spinal discs can weaken and tear. When this occurs, an individual is said to have degenerative disc disease. In the event that a portion of their disc bulges and pinches a nerve or the spinal cord, they may be diagnosed with a herniated disc that leads to severe pain as well as weakness or tingling in their arms.
In order to minimize pain and restore mobility, a spine surgeon may insert an artificial implant into the cervical spine or neck area in order to replace the damaged disc. This minimally invasive procedure that does not involve excising the muscles and soft tissues is referred to as a cervical disc replacement.
It allows a patient to move their neck more naturally and is often an alternative to a spinal fusion which is a procedure in which two vertebrae are mended into one. Surgeons will only recommend a cervical disc replacement when conservative treatments such as pain medication, steroid injections, and physical therapy have not been effective.
What to Expect During a Cervical Disc Replacement
A cervical disc replacement is performed under general anesthesia. Dr. Shanti will begin by asking a patient to face up as he approaches their cervical spine from the front of their neck. He will make a small incision in front of the patient’s neck and retract their soft tissues so that he could gain access to their cervical spine.
Next, Dr. Shanti will remove the damaged disc as well as any loose bone spurs or disc fragments. Once the disc has been removed, he will clear the disc space and place the artificial disc device in the prepared space in order to restore its normal height and relieve any pressure. Lastly, Dr. Shanti will close the incisions.
Recovering From a Cervical Disc Replacement
Right after a cervical disc replacement surgery, patients may experience some pain, discomfort, or neck muscle spasms. Fortunately, this will fade away shortly and patients will likely enjoy significant relief from their arm and neck pain.
They will be directed to keep their incision area clean and dry while refraining from driving, heavy lifting, driving, and smoking. In many cases, Dr. Shanti will recommend physical therapy and pain medications. Although most patients only require a week to 10 days off work, those with physically demanding jobs may need to take up to 6 weeks off.
If you are interested in more information, please request an appointment with Dr. Shanti.