The spinal cord is a linear arrangement of many small bones known as vertebrae. These vertebrae consist of spaces between them known as intervertebral spaces. They are filled with cartilaginous structures that provide a cushioning effect to the vertebrae and support the movement of the spine. These cartilaginous structures are called Intervertebral discs.
Any pathology of the intervertebral discs such as disc herniation (slipping of the disc from between the vertebrae), ruptured disc, or degenerative disc disease may cause severe back pain due to nerve impingement, indicating the need for either partial or total disc replacement. In partial disc replacement surgery, only a portion of the cartilaginous disc is replaced by the artificial disc, while the total disc is replaced in the total disc replacement surgery.
Cervical disc degeneration and disc rupture may cause chronic neck pain radiating towards the arm. Thoracic disc degeneration may cause chronic upper/ mid back pain while lumbar disc degeneration may cause chronic lower back pain.
Depending on the site of injury, any one of the following three types of incisions are made:
Once the incision is made, the following steps are performed:
Step 1: The organs are retracted once an incision is made to enable visibility
Step 2: The damaged or protruding disc is removed
Step 3: An artificial disc in place of excised disc is placed
Step 4 The artificial disc is secured to the adjacent vertebrae
Step 5: A sealing material between the frictional surfaces of the artificial disc is placed, if required
Step 6: The incision is surgically closed
You may be discharged after two to four days, after a thorough evaluation by the physical therapists. You are taught the proper techniques of getting in and out of bed before discharge from the hospital. You should avoid bending or twisting for the first two to four weeks to avoid straining the surgical site. You may be advised to use braces if your condition requires support in the lower back.
You may recover and get back to normal activities within three weeks after disc replacement surgery. Studies reveal that patients who successfully undergo total disc replacement surgery remain asymptomatic and free from chronic back pain for an average of 8.7 years.
The recovery time after total disc replacement is significantly less than that of spinal fusion surgery. The mobility is not compromised, and the prognosis is good. The success rate of the disc replacement surgery is around 98 percent.
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