Cervical Disc Replacement

After about six months of chronic back pain, numbness, or weakness that is not helped by non-surgical treatment, you may be a good candidate for surgery. Disc replacement surgery is an option that involves removing a worn, degenerated disc and replacing it with an artificial disc.

Conditions Treated by Disc Replacement

At the Spine Hospital at Mount Sinai, we use disc replacement to treat both cervical and lumbar back pain.

The human spine consists of 24 small bones, called vertebrae, stacked on top of each other. Between each bone is a soft cushion, called a disc, which absorbs some of the pressure and keeps the bones from rubbing against each other. Each vertebra has a hole in the center, forming a hollow tube that houses the spinal cord and nerve roots.

Discs often bulge and collapse as we get older. This phenomenon, a slipped disc, is a herniated disc, or a bulging disc. When the hollow tube through the vertebrae becomes too narrow, a vertebra or disc may press against or pinch the spinal cord or nerves, causing pain, numbness, or weakness. Pinched nerves occur in the cervical spine, which consists of the seven vertebrae in the neck area, or in the lumbar spine, the five disks in your lower back.

When the pain comes from only one or two vertebrae, you may be a good candidate for disc replacement surgery. Your surgeon can advise you on the most appropriate course of treatment.

Advanced Technology

Disc replacement surgery is a relatively new alternative to traditional spine fusion. When Mount Sinai surgeons perform a disc replacement procedure, we exchange the diseased disc for an artificial disc made of a polyethylene core sandwiched between two layers of cobalt-chrome alloy. This artificial disc shifts the vertebrae above and below back into their normal positions, which stops them from pressing against the spinal cord and nerves, thereby decreasing or eliminating the symptoms. The procedure typically takes two to three hours.

Studies have shown that lumbar disc replacement protects the spine from degeneration. In addition, unlike the older procedure of spinal fusion, both cervical and lumbar disc replacements preserve the spine’s flexibility.

After Surgery

Mount Sinai disc replacement patients spend at least one night in the hospital after the procedure, depending on the location of the disc replacement. Many lumbar disc replacement patients are in the hospital for two to four days. Both procedures offer a shorter recovery time than traditional spine fusion surgery.

Most lumbar disc replacement patients start to walk around the day after surgery. Cervical disc replacement patients may wear a soft or rigid head support after surgery. You will probably start physical therapy within a few weeks of the procedure and return to regular activity in four to six weeks.