Disc degeneration within the lumbar region of the spine is one of the more common sources of back pain. When non-surgical alternatives have failed, many patients must decide whether or not to undergo spinal fusion. Spinal fusion surgery successfully reduces back pain and restores stability to the spine, but it also limits mobility by fixing two or more vertebra together.
Now, a newer procedure called lumbar disk replacement makes it possible to relieve pain, restore stability, and preserve flexibility. Artificial disks are designed to mimic natural spinal discs, and provide considerable advantages to patients who wish to maintain a high level of activity.
What is a Spinal Disc?
The spine consists of a series of bones, called vertebra, stacked on top of one another. Spinal disks fill the space between each of the vertebra in your spine and act as shock absorbers. As we age, these disks can lose water content and deteriorate. This can lead to wear and tear at the ends of the vertebra and compression of the spinal canal.
How Are Artificial Discs Used?
Traditional treatments for degenerative disc disease, including rigid spinal fusion, successfully restore stability to the spine. However, they do so at the expense of mobility. The goal of artificial disk replacement is to restore both stability and flexibility to the spine.
Artificial disks are manufactured to have the same shock absorbing properties as natural spinal discs. Most artificial discs are composite: rigid metal endplates fix to the vertebra on either side of the replaced disc level, while a flexible polyethylene or rubber spacer provides cushion. The disks are lined with material that shows up on X-ray imaging, so that the status of the disk replacement can be monitored over time. To avoid revisional surgery, artificial discs are made to be extremely durable, lasting as long as 50 years.
Benefits of the Bionic Spine
Artificial disk replacement surgery is an alternative to traditional lumbar fusion, and may be more beneficial to some patients. For younger patients, or patients who wish to maintain as much mobility as possible, lumbar artificial disc replacement may be the optimal treatment. While spinal fusion fixes vertebra together, artificial disk replacement restores flexibility in the spine. Artificial disk replacement can also be used in multiple levels of the lumbar spine. Using multiple artificial disks can both relieve pain and preserve mobility for the patient in cases of severe disk degeneration.
While lumbar disc replacement has many benefits over spinal fusion, it is a relatively new procedure. Several complications involving artificial disks can occur, including failure of the material or mechanical components. Many clinical studies are in process to confirm the long-term effectiveness of this treatment method. With time, however, artificial disk replacement seems a promising alternative.
Contact an Orthopedic Spine Specialist in Beverly Hills
The Spine Surgery Center of Excellence boasts some of the most talented orthopedic spine surgeons in Beverly Hills, trained in cutting-edge procedures. If you have questions about lumbar disc replacement surgery, please contact our spine surgeons at (888) 564-1419.