Can You Replace a Damaged Disc?
- Posted on: Jan 30 2018
When a spinal disc pushes out beyond its normal parameters the outer membrane can crack. This is called a herniated disc and the inner gel-like material can push outward and impact nearby spinal nerve roots. This leads to back pain and pain that often radiates down into your legs and buttocks. There is no way to “repair” a ruptured or damaged disc.
At DFW Center for Spinal Disorders, we may perform decompression surgery to alleviate pressure on the nerves. Or the patient may opt to have fusion surgery, fusing the two discs where the pain is originating.
A newer option is disc replacement surgery. The goal of this relatively new procedure is to relieve back pain while maintaining normal motion of the spine that fusion surgery can hinder. Doctors remove and replace the damaged disc with an artificial spinal disc during the procedure.
Who would have disc replacement?
Patients who opt for fusion surgery usually have exhausted every other solution to their chronic pain. They have typically tried physical therapy, cortisone injections, posture corrections, even decompression surgery, but the pain is still there. As a famous example, Tiger Woods recently went down this path. He had three decompression surgeries, yet they could not eliminate the pain. He opted to have fusion surgery on his lumbar spine.
But in some cases, the patient doesn’t want to lose normal motion in that area of the spine. Obviously, fusing two vertebrae together will eliminate some motion. That’s why surgeons and researchers have been developing artificial spinal discs.
The FDA approved the first artificial disc in the United States in 2004. Over the decade plus since then, numerous other disc replacement designs have been developed and brought to market or are being tested.
To place an artificial disc, DFW Center for Spinal Disorders will enter through the abdomen. While this involves moving the organs and blood vessels to gain access to the spine, it precludes the need to move the nerves. The doctor then removes the diseased or damaged disc, along with any remaining cartilage on the end surfaces of the vertebrae. The sides of the two vertebrae are prepared for the metal endplates of the prosthesis. The space between the vertebrae is widened to return it to the normal width that was compromised with the failing disc. This alleviates pressure on the nerve caused by the herniated disc.
Next, the metal implants of the appropriate size are chosen and are inserted into the opening and are tapped into the upper and lower vertebrae. The doctor then inserts the polyethylene core between the endplates. The doctor then returns the spine to normal posture. This returned pressure seats the endplates and holds the core in position. Some other disc options feature parts completely made of metal, usually cobalt chromium or titanium alloy.
Disc replacement or fusion may be necessary to relieve chronic back pain. At DFW Center for Spinal Disorders, we are experts in treatment and surgery of spinal disorders. If you have chronic back pain, you don’t have to live with it. Call us at 817-916-4685 and let us help you.