Artificial discs are designed to replace intervertebral discs damaged by spine disorders such as degenerative disc disease. As the name implies, an artificial disc is constructed in such a way that it mimics normal anatomy.
Intervertebral discs have 3 important functions:
- Absorb Shock – the cushioning properties of the disc make it possible for the spinal column to compress and rebound during vigorous activity.
- Maintain space between vertebrae – discs prevent bone from grinding against bone, as well as maintain enough distance between vertebrae so that nerve roots can exit the spinal canal freely, without impediment.
- Permit motion – without discs, the spine would be a rigid column of vertebrae. Intervertebral discs lend flexibility to the spine, allowing full range of motion e.g., forward and backward, side-to-side.
With the advent of total disc replacement (TDR) surgery, Dr. Stieber is often able to offer his patients an alternative to conventional spinal fusion surgery for the treatment of degenerative disc disease (DDD) in the lumbar spine and the treatment of symptomatic cervical disc disease (SCDD) in the cervical spine. The TDR procedure is intended to relieve pain and preserve motion in the spine.
During both TDR surgery and spinal fusion, the pain-generating disc is removed and the intervertebral disc height is restored. During a fusion surgery, the spinal segment is stabilized with an implant and plate and/or rods and screws. Bone graft may be used to promote fusion of the vertebrae. For those patients for whom disc replacement is appropriate, a specialized device is implanted that allows the potential for motion.
An artificial disc usually replaces the entire intervertebral disc – the annulus fibrosus, nucleus pulposus, and the endplates, depending on the type of device. Disc replacement surgery is typically performed in the cervical (neck) or lumbar (lower back) regions. The surgical approach is through the front of the neck for cervical discs and through the abdomen for lumbar discs.
Disc replacement is not indicated in all cases of degenerative disc disease. Furthermore, not all patients are appropriate candidates for disc replacement surgery. Dr. Stieber understands emerging technologies and is qualified to determine when disc replacement is a viable treatment option.
Dr. Stieber has published and presented research on disc replacement surgery in both the cervical and lumbar spine and is the author of multiple book chapters on disc replacement surgery.
Potential Benefits of disc replacement include:
- Elimination of the degenerated disc as a pain generator
- Restoration of intervertebral disc height
- Decompression of neural structures
- Motion preservation
- Slowing degeneration of the discs above and below the affected disc
- Relatively swift return to normal activity