Fortunately, few people who experience low back pain will require surgery for relief from their discomfort. But if conservative treatments haven’t eliminated your pain within six months, and your doctor has determined that your disc joint is the source of your chronic pain, you might be a candidate for disk replacement surgery.
Just as a knee or hip replacement substitutes the worn out bone, disc replacement substitutes a device in place of a vertebral disc. The new device will not only restore movement that was lost because of a worn down disc, but it will also lessen the pain associated with it.
There are a few tests your doctor will perform to see if you are a good candidate for disc replacement. Some of the tests will include MRI, CAT scan, X-rays, and a discography. The main goal of these will be to identify the source of your pain, and to see if the replacement will help you. If your back pain is caused by one or two discs in your lumbar (lower) spine, you are not overweight, and you have not had any previous lumbar spine surgery, then you could potentially benefit from a disc replacement.
The traditional approach to treating lumbar pain is a spinal fusion, which involves creating a direct bond between the vertebrae surrounding the painful disc. This aims to stop pain by keeping the damaged disc from moving. However, this is not always successful, and even if it heals perfectly, you may still suffer from back pain. Disc replacement is now considered the alternative to a fusion in treating lower back pain.
The procedure for a disc replacement is done with an anterior approach through the abdomen. While this approach requires organs and blood vessels to be moved, it does not require your surgeon to move any nerves. The surgery typically takes about three hours. The design of the disc your surgeon chooses will depend on many factors; the goal is to perfectly replicate the function and size of a normal, healthy disc. Some replacements will be made solely of metal, while others will be a mix of plastic and metal.
The first day after undergoing a disc replacement, patients will be asked to walk around. As there is no bone healing, your doctor will encourage you to keep moving (within reason), especially throughout your mid-section. Many studies have demonstrated that patients who move regularly early on have shorter recovery times.
Patients will typically be required to stay in the hospital for 2-4 days following their disc replacement. You will be encouraged to perform basic exercises like walking and stretching, although you should avoid any hyperextension movements. In the month following your surgery, you should expect to start experiencing less back pain and an increased range of motion.
Typically, surgery is not considered for disc-related pain unless the pain has been severe for more than six months and the patient has gone through non-operative treatments. Schedule a consultation with a spine specialist from the Florida Spine Institute to determine your best treatment option.
The Florida Spine Institute is proud to offer their patients this new and improved innovation in artificial disc replacement. Learn more about the benefits of the ActivL Artificial Disc replacement, what considerations must be taken into account and who this eligible for this cutting edge procedure.