Disc Replacement

Total disc replacement, also called artificial disc replacement, is an alternative to spinal fusion. It replaces a disc while preserving the mobility of the spine. Artificial disc replacement is a relatively recent option. If you and your doctor think artificial disk replacement might be right for you, be prepared to launch a search for a surgeon and a hospital well qualified to perform the procedure. It’s new, and expertise in not available everywhere.

In the United States, two types of artificial discs were only recently approved by the FDA. The CHARITÉ artificial disc got its okay in 2004. Its mobile-core design consists of a sliding plastic core between two chrome plates.

The ProDisc-L was approved in 2006. Its fixed-core ball and socket design consists of three implant components: two chrome endplates and a plastic inlay. These disc replacements are known to be reliable and often helpful, but they work only in the lumbar (lower region) of the spine

In 2007, the FDA approved a new artificial disc for use in the cervical (neck) region. “This new artificial disc is a big step forward in treating patients suffering from neck and arm pain because of cervical disc disease. It offers patients a remarkably effective option that alleviates pain and also preserves more of their mobility,” says Dr. Francois Aldrich, a neurosurgeon at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Trouble is, Dr. Aldrich is one of the few surgeons performing the procedure in the US.

If you think an up-to-the-minute disc replacement procedure might be right for you, speak with your doctor about the medical centers at home and abroad where clinical trials were conducted and where surgeons are highly experienced with these complex surgical techniques.

Last updated on 31 May 2011