Eight Legged Horse Driven By Efficiency

Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery on the Rise

Spinal disorders are not uncommon to a high percentage of the global population, with about 80% of the Americans experiencing at least one episode of back pain during their lifetime. As people age, they experience a deterioration of the mechanical and biological integrity in their intervertebral discs. Disc deterioration either affects the spinal unit leading to a number of painful entities or may actually produce pain directly.

Not long ago, the only treatment options for spinal disorders included non-surgical therapy. Patients undergoing these treatments would be taken through options such as heat, rest, analgesics, manipulation and physical therapy. Unfortunately, many patients do not respond to these treatments as expected. Other surgical management treatment like spine decompression, spinal manipulation, and arthrodesis have also been explored but have been found to lead to recurrent disc rupture, degenerative processes, spinal stenosis and instability.

The Efficacy of Artificial Disc Replacement

The good news is that there exists a more effective surgical treatment option for lumbar and cervical spines known as artificial disc replacement. This process replaces the painful disc with another fully functional artificial implant. After the success of two disc implants back in 2004 and 2006, the US approved this approach as a vitable treatment option for spinal disease. Since then, more and more people have embraced it to treat spinal disorders compared to non surgical treatments.

Primary Purpose of Disc Replacement Surgery

Artificial disc replacement surgery is a treatment for chronic back pains that restores the normal functioning of the intervertebral disc. It does this without the common problems associated with non surgical options mentioned above. The disc implant is manufactured with materials that pose no danger to the human body therefore the patient feels much better after the procedure. It’s almost like being given a new lease of life.

Today, disc replacement surgery can be done on both the neck (cervical spine) and low back (lumbar spine.) The former, cervical disc replacement surgery is more common as other treatment alternatives are notably more effective for the lumbar spine (i.e spinal fusion surgery.)

The Surgical Procedure Explained

The process involves the removal of a problematic spinal disc and replacing it with a prosthetic implant usually made of metal which can either have a plastic bearing surface or not. A surgeon makes an incision in the lower abdomen then moves the abdominal organs to the side for a better view of the spine. The next step is the careful removal of the degenerated and collapsed disc without any damage to the other parts of the body.

The artificial disc is then implanted starting with two endplates (usually a cobalt chromium alloy) then the medium core. This makes use of specialized surgical instruments. The endplates press above and below the disc space while teething along the vertebral bone at the border of the endplate for a good grip.

After the replacement, the surgeon places a polyethylene core between the endplates. A combined effort of the spinal ligaments and the spine’s compressive force hold the artificial disc in place with bending X-rays after the procedure displaying normal spinal motions; almost close to that of a healthy natural disc.

Expected Outcome of Disc Replacement

A patient who has undergone disc replacement is expected to have a normal spinal function. The implant allows for a great range of motion in extension/flexion, axial rotation, lateral bending and translation. Since the artificial disc comes in different sizes ranging from 14mm to 18 mm in diameter, every spinal height is achieved which means all patient heights are catered for.

Out of all surgeries done in America and parts of Europe, treatment follow ups have displayed tremendous success. Patients not only show good outcomes in their spinal motions but have no migration or significant subsidence of the implanted disc.

When all's said and done, the fact remains that artificial disc replacement is one of the best treatment option for spinal disease. It offers back pain patients a chance to live a healthy normal life without the constant worry of spinal disorders.

How to Shop for a Qualified Orthopedic Spine Surgeon

A good spine surgeon can make a huge difference in the outcome of your spinal surgery. But the question is, how do you find a good surgeon? There are many newly trained orthopedic spine surgeons out there who tend to provide information about the high quality of services they offer, but we see the number of failed back surgery patients today continuing to be inordinately high.

This is why it is more than important not to take the decision of choosing an orthopedic spine surgeon lightly. Here few actionable tips that can help you pick the right spine surgeon.

1. Experience

Experience is the most important quality you must consider before you choose a spine surgeon. But it is not just about the most years a surgeon has under his or her belt, no; You must do some research about the orthopedic spine surgeon educational backgrounds as well as data you can retrieve online to show that he is well qualified. 

Never hesitate to ask the surgeon how many procedures he or she has performed and if they can refer you to some of their former patients, this will put you in a better position. Don’t just look at the results of former patients, consider the trend, rather than an isolated experience, this way, you will make a sound decision.

Another good indication a qualified orthopedic spine surgeon is where they practice. Some reputable spine surgeons are licensed in different states. An experienced surgeon is often licensed in one or more states - mostly states that are popular epicenters of surgery and medical services. For instance, a surgeon is licensed to practice spine surgery in New Jersey and New York probably has greater experience that a orthopedic surgeon who practices in North Dakota.

2. Relevant Knowledge of New Spine Surgery Procedures

A surgeon may be extremely talented on his or her procedure and with years of experience, but if he or she lacks knowledge about new procedures, you may need to reconsider your options. For instance, traditionally, spine surgery was done as 'open surgery’, this simply means that the areas being operated were opened with a long incision to allow a surgeon to access and view the anatomy.

However, today the technological advances have eliminated such method. Techniques such as minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS) techniques are what many spine surgeon are using today; it doesn’t involve long incision which helps avoid significant damage to muscles around the spine. There are quite a number of minimally invasive spine techniques available, as well as other cutting edge procedures like spinal navigation technology and much more. Always choose an orthopedic surgeon/spine surgeon who uses these techniques.

3. A Spine Surgeon Who Only Sees "Surgical Patients"

When considering spine surgery, you must keep in mind that spine surgery is an elective procedure; there are only a few circumstances when spine injury is considered as absolute essential. So, if you go to an orthopedic surgeon who only sees you as a surgical patient, then you may need to reconsider your shopping options.

The role of a good surgeon is to educate, as he or she assist you with the ranges of option for you. He or she should clearly describe to you what is possible, and what is not as well as informing you about the risk associated with the procedure and the potential benefits. When trying to find a spine surgeon who can truly trust, always choose an orthopedic spine surgeon who is helpful with information you require whether he or she will proceed with the surgery or not.

You can gather information about a good surgeon from reliable sources such as from other reliable doctors, from family and friends who have similar experiences to yours. If you pinpoint an orthopedic surgeon/spine surgeon, and you happen to ask or raise a concern, and he or she doesn’t answer questions to your liking or is doesn’t seem to care, you may need to look for other options.