What Are My Options For Disc Replacement?

If you have been suffering from lower back pain for an extended period of time and non-surgical treatments have not helped enough, you may be wondering about your options for spinal disc replacement surgery. Artificial disc replacement (ADR) is a relatively new type of surgery that has been in practice for only the past ten years or so, and while it is can be a viable option for some, it carries its own set of risks and liabilities, and not everyone is a good candidate for it. There is also an ongoing discussion in the medical community about whether ADR is a better solution than traditional spinal fusion surgery. Let’s look briefly at both options to compare them.

Spinal fusion

For many years, the most common form of back surgery designed to provide long-term pain relief is spinal fusion surgery. This procedure involves immobilizing the affected discs in the back by fusing the adjoining vertebrae together, effectively encasing the disc(s) so that it/they no longer move. There are a number of different approaches to this procedure, and your surgeon can discuss which option or options are best for your situation. The end goal for each option, however, is the same: restrict movement and pressure on the damaged discs in order to minimize pain.

Artificial disc replacement

As the name suggests, artificial disc replacement (ADR) involves removing the affected disc and replacing it with a disc implant. This procedure is more complicated than it sounds, but when ADR is successful, the patient optimally regains the same level of movement in the spine that he/she had before the back condition occurred.

Which is better?

Obviously, that’s a question whose details can only be addressed in a conversation with your doctor or surgeon. However, for the sake of discussion here, there are pros and cons with both the spinal fusion and disc replacement options. While spinal fusion is a proven method for providing relief, it can restrict some mobility in the back. On the other hand, ADR runs the same risks as any implant—meaning there can be complications from the body considering the artificial disc to be an “intruder” of sorts, or that the implant itself might wear out. As to pain relief, there is no proven study currently available that suggests one alternative is more effective than the other. It is more a matter of what is the best solution given the patient’s specific circumstances and issues, which is why only you and your doctor can determine which is right for you.

To learn more about your options for spinal disc replacement, contact Polaris Spine & Neurosurgery Center today at 404-256-2633. We’re waiting to help.

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