Spinal disc replacement

Specialty of Neurosurgery

What is this treatment?

A disc prosthesis, also known as disc replacement surgery, is the replacement of an intervertebral disc for a device that is able to maintain mobility between both lumbar vertebrae.

Disc replacement surgery mainly involves surgically replacing the intervertebral disc with an articular segment prosthesis.

Why would you do it?

This procedure is normally carried out on people who have initial intervertebral disc degeneration, in other words, lumbar degenerative discopathy or disc instability, so hypermobility.

The main advantage of this type of surgery is that it allows spinal mobility in cases of severe disc degeneration.

After surgery, patients are normally able to go back to a normal life and even carry out activities that they weren’t able to do before the discomfort began.

What does it involve?

This surgery involves inserting an artificial disc in the space and removing the damaged disc.

The disc that is inserted is designed to maintain mobility in the area and along the spine. Its design aims for it to function as a normal joint would, allowing rotation, extension, and flexion, as well aligning with the curve and height of a natural disc.

The procedure is done in a minimally-invasive way, the incision is no longer than 5 centimetres and is done in the neck. Once the surgeon has reached the spine, the area to be treated is opened, the damaged disc is removed as well as the bone material surrounding the neuralgic structure to provide more space. This technique is called a discectomy and decompression.

After this, the prosthetic disc is inserted in the space created.

How to prepare for it

Before the procedure, as with any surgery, the patient will be examined and the specialist will carry out a patient evaluation.

The patient normally goes to the clinic on the day of the operation, and they should fast prior to the procedure. The surgery will take around one hour to do, and after the surgery the patient will be sent to a recovery room where doctors will keep a close eye on them. 

Post-operative care

If the operation was successful and there weren’t any complications, the patient will generally remain in hospital for a couple of days under observation.

By the third day, patients are normally discharged from hospital and can carry out their day to day activities, providing they take care to not overdo it.

About ten days or a fortnight later, the stitches will be taken out, and rehabilitation will be done on an outpatient basis.

Around two months after surgery, most patients can return to normal life.  

Alternative treatments

The main alternative to a disc prosthesis is disc fusion surgery, which involves fusing the vertebrae with screws and plates. This type of surgery tends to yield good results, even though the vertebrae remain fixed.

For more information, speak to a surgical specialist.

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