3 percent of individuals with progressive curvature may eventually experience severe problems that can include scoliosis and back pain, spinal problems, and nerve compression causing numbness, weakness, and leg pain.
Cervical Disc Replacement
The cervical spine consists of 7 bones also known as vertebrae, stacked on one another forming the neck area. That is why from an engineering perspective, the cervical disc is a unique mechanical structure that can withstand large compressive loads. It lies between the cervical vertebrae which act as a shock absorber and allows the bones of your neck to move freely.
The cervical disc’s major role is to protect the tunnel for the upper part of your spinal cord. And, the function of the spinal nerves is to supply signals to the upper body with sensation and movement.
So, when the space between the vertebrae starts getting narrow, the cervical disc starts pressing on your spinal nerves. It causes pain, numbness, and weakness. If the nonsurgical treatment doesn’t help, a cervical disc replacement is necessary.
Signs That You Need Cervical Disc Replacement
With the unbearable pain in the neck, it’s tiresome to complete a regular task. The weakness and numbness prevent you from accomplishing your goals and add up extra stress. It should be noted, these symptoms can be related when the spongy protective discs located in your neck press on nerves and cause uncomfortable symptoms like:
- Neck pain, neck stiffness, and headache.
- Extreme pain that keeps on traveling into your shoulders and arms.
- You experience weakness in your arms, hands, legs, and shoulders.
- The feeling of “pins and needles” or numbness in your arms.
Questions and Answers
What is Cervical Disc Replacement
Cervical disc replacement is a surgical procedure performed to treat certain types of neck pain and symptoms caused by damaged or degenerated cervical discs. The procedure involves removing the affected disc and replacing it with an artificial disc implant. The goal of cervical disc replacement is to relieve pain, maintain motion, and restore the normal function of the cervical spine.
Who is a Candidate for Cervical Disc Replacement
Not all individuals with neck pain or cervical disc problems are candidates for cervical disc replacement. Generally, candidates for this procedure meet the following criteria:
- Have persistent neck pain, arm pain, or other symptoms related to cervical disc problems that have not responded to conservative treatments (such as physical therapy, medications, or injections) for at least 6 to 12 weeks.
- Have a single-level cervical disc herniation or degeneration that is causing the symptoms.
- Are generally in good health and do not have severe osteoporosis, spinal instability, significant arthritis, or other conditions that may affect the success of the procedure.
What is the Recovery Process after Cervical Disc Replacement
The recovery process after cervical disc replacement varies from person to person, but here is a general overview:
- Hospital stay: Most patients can expect to stay in the hospital for one to two days after the surgery.
- Pain management: Pain and discomfort are common after surgery and are typically managed with medications. The healthcare team will provide specific instructions on pain management.
- Physical therapy: Physical therapy exercises are an essential part of the recovery process. They help improve strength, flexibility, and mobility of the neck and upper body. The healthcare team will provide guidance on when to start and how to progress with physical therapy.
- Return to daily activities: The time it takes to return to daily activities and work varies, but most people can resume light activities within a few weeks and return to full activities within a few months.
- Follow-up appointments: Regular follow-up appointments with the surgeon will be scheduled to monitor the progress of the recovery and address any concerns or questions.
How To Prepare For Cervical Disc Replacement Surgery
You can always consult with the healthcare provider that guides you through the entire procedure. Below is a list of some steps that you might need to follow:
- Your surgeon must have the information about your medications. Whether it’s herbal supplements or over-the-counter medications, they should know.
- You may be prohibited from the consumption of aspirin or any other medications that leads to thinning of blood or an increase in bleeding.
- If there is any history of reaction to general anesthesia, notify your surgeon about that.
- You should not smoke or drink alcohol before the surgery. The treatment might not be successful.
- The surgeon will probably instruct you on when to eat or drink. However, it’s common to consume nothing after midnight before the procedure.
- Don’t forget to ask your surgeon on the day of the surgery whether you should have your regular medications with little water.
The Procedure Of Cervical Disc Replacement Surgery
Before the beginning of the cervical disc replacement surgery, an intravenous line will be connected to receive the fluids and medications. This procedure makes you feel relaxed and sleepy and is performed under general anesthesia.
The surgeon will provide the medication through the IV so you can sleep and insert a protective tube in your throat for breathing. The surgery or the actual procedure can last a few hours or two. And, once the procedure begins, you may experience the following:
- To check your pulse rate, heart, blood, and oxygen level, the surgeons will place monitors and advanced equipment.
- The area of your neck will be cleaned to kill germs and bacteria on your skin with a special solution.
- The surgeon will cut a one-to-two-inch incision either on the front or on the side of your neck.
- Then, the surgeon will carefully move the vital structures of the neck until the revelation of the bones of the cervical disc.
- The surgeon will remove the replaced cervical disc.
- The empty disc space gets secured with an artificial disc.
- By using absorbable sutures, your surgeon will close the incision under the skin. Then to minimize any scarring, the skin is carefully closed with sutures.
- After the application of a small dressing over the incision, you may have to wear a soft collar on your neck for protection. It restricts motion.
Some steps might be different from those mentioned above. Therefore, you must consult everything with your healthcare provider about the procedure during your surgery.
Advantages of Cervical Disc Replacement
In cervical disc replacement surgery, the surgeons will replace the diseased cervical disc with an artificial one. When this procedure was not available, the doctors used to remove the affected area. Then to prevent the motion, the above and below vertebrates were fused.
The replacement of new discs with natural cervical discs is a new type of FDA-approved treatment. This surgery provides more movement and creates less stress on the other remaining vertebrates.
But, before you want to have cervical artificial disc replacement (ADR) surgery, it is crucial to know what it wants to accomplish. The benefits of cervical ADR include:
- Disc replacement improves locomotor function
The cervical disc replacement helps with normal neck motion. It means the patients get to move their heads and neck without any pain. This increase in movement progresses day-to-day function and offers a better quality of life.
- Cervical ADR reduces stress on the spine
The adjacent vertebrae experience further degeneration due to the extra stress and loss of motion. Undoubtedly, disc replacement surgery minimizes the increased stress, maintains motion, and protects the adjacent vertebrae.
- Surgery offers a faster recovery
Other than traditional fusion surgery, recovery from cervical ADR is much faster. You can get to work or your normal schedule within four days of the surgery. Besides, you don’t need to worry about the complexities of fusion surgery.
Risks Associated With Cervical Disc Replacement Surgery
Without a doubt, every surgery has some risk, so choosing a relatively safe procedure like disc replacement surgery is better. Cervical disc replacement is a new method of surgery with little information to follow. That’s why the risk still prevails. Discuss the risks and benefits of the surgery with your surgeon thoroughly.
Some of the potential risks of cervical ADR are:
- You may experience bleeding, infection, nerve injury, spinal fluid leak, voice change, or stroke.
- The difficulty of breathing and swallowing any food cannot be ignored.
- If the surgery is not successful, the chances of having a broken or loosened artificial disc are high. Here you may need to go for another surgery.
However, depending on your medical conditions, chances of other risks are also there. Therefore, consult with the surgeon as early as possible.
What To Expect After Cervical Disc Replacement Surgery?
You will stay under observation in the recovery area until the faded effect of anesthesia. Experiencing pain after the disc replacement surgery is normal. So, pain medication is essential for consumption. Some people may have to stay more days in the hospital. And, this is what you can expect during your hospital stay:
- The continuation of intravenous fluids until you get to drink the fluids properly by mouth.
- You can start having your regular normal diet, once you start drinking normally.
- If the pain doesn’t go away, the doctors will suggest you continue the pain medication.
- The nurses will keep on checking your dressing.
- You may have to wear a support collar in the hospital.
- Once you have started to feel better, the doctors and nurses will encourage you to get out of bed and do little movements.
If the doctors think you are ready to go home, you will get discharged.
- Even at home, wearing soft or rigid neck support is necessary.
- Now you can follow your normal diet.
- After removing the sutures, you may have to return to your surgeon for further checkup.
- Slowly you will start returning to normal activities.
- After a few weeks, you can continue physical therapy.
However, you should contact your surgeon if you suffer from these issues:
- Fever, headache, bleeding, redness, swelling, or discharge from the stitch
- Terrible pain even after having pain medication
- Numbness or weakness
- Difficulty in swallowing regular food or water
- Change in voice or hoarseness
- Difficulty breathing or speaking
If the pain is chronic and it’s affecting your regular life, a cervical disc replacement can help. Our healthcare team at the Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute with offices in Dallas, Plano, and Frisco, Texas will guide you through the whole procedure. If you or your child has neck pain and want to further discuss the options to avoid and stop the pain, we invite you to give us a call and make an appointment to speak to one of our Spine Doctors. Our Medical Practice has top-rated specialists with the experience and knowledge necessary to offer patients the best possible treatment for neck pain. Additionally, we welcome new patients and urge you to make an appointment.
National Institute of Health: Cervical Disc Replacement
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If you are an adult living with scoliosis or have a child with this condition and need a doctor who specializes in orthopedic surgery,
call the Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute at 214-556-0555 to make an appointment today.