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What is disc replacement?

Disc replacement removes a damaged spinal disc and replaces it with an artificial disc. Spinal discs are made of cartilage-like material. They act as cushions between two vertebrae. Your surgeon may recommend this surgery if you have back pain due to one or two damaged spinal discs. Disc replacement can improve your back pain and disability. However, it is important to have realistic expectations for disc replacement. Some pain and disability will likely remain.

Spinal discs allow your spine to move and twist. The gold standard for treating spinal pain with surgery is spinal fusion. Spinal fusion removes the spinal disc and fuses two vertebrae together. This can eliminate pain, but it also eliminates spine movement and flexibility. Disc replacement is an alternative to spinal fusion that maintains spine flexibility.

Disc replacement is major surgery that has risks and potential complications. You may have less invasive treatment options. Consider getting a second opinion about all of your treatment options before having a disc replacement. 

Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Nov 5, 2013

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Medical References

About Artificial Discs. Medtronic. http://www.medtronic.com/patients/cervical-herniated-discs/device/index.htm. Accessed June 29, 2013.
Artificial Disc Replacement. North American Spine Society. http://www.knowyourback.org/pages/treatments/surgicaloptions/artificialdiscreplacement.aspx. Accessed June 29, 2013.
Artificial Disk Replacement in the Lumbar Spine. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00502. Accessed June 29, 2013.
Disc Replacement for Low Back Pain. American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. http://www.aapmr.org/patients/conditions/msk/spine/Pages/Disc-Replacement-for-Low-Back-Pain.aspx. Accessed June 29, 2013.
Pile JC. Evaluating postoperative fever: A focused approach. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. 2006;73 (Suppl 1):S62. http://ccjm.org/content/73/Suppl_1/S62.full.pdf. Accessed June 29, 2013.
PRODISC®-L Total Disc Replacement - P050010. United States Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/DeviceApprovalsandClearances/Recently-ApprovedDevices/ucm077620.htm. Accessed June 29, 2013.

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