Artificial Disc Surgery Recovery – Post Surgery Treatment and Care

Disc surgery recovery is quite swift these days, with high rates of success. Artificial Disc Replacement (ADR) is a fairly new technique and the long-term impact of the surgery is yet to be gauged.

Since long-term studies are unavailable, the success of the surgery is determined by the extent to which the pain is reduced and mobility is restored. Patient responses indicate that complete elimination of pain rarely happens, although there is often a dramatic decline in the pain levels.

Artificial Disc Surgery Recovery

Only constant exercise can help you with proper disc surgery recovery

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Pre Disc Replacement Preparation – Things You Need to Know

Degenerative Disc Diseases (DDD) can occur due to genetic, age and lifestyle factors and in such cases, the discs that cushion the vertebrae suffer from damage, resulting in chronic back pain. Once the disc pain diagnosis is complete and an artificial disc replacement surgery has been recommended by your doctor, it is time for you to undergo pre disc replacement procedures. These mirror the normal precautions that you would have to take before any surgery.

Pre Disc Replacement Knowhow for DDD Patients

Spinal Fusion and Artificial Disc Replacement (ADR) are the two procedures that are used to treat Degenerative Disc Disease. As Spinal Fusion results in significant loss of mobility, modern medicine is turning increasingly to ADR. During ADR, an artificial disc is used to replace the worn out disc.

The surgery lasts a few hours and the pre disc replacement procedures that should be followed have been given below.


Pre Disc Replacement Preparation

Choosing the right disc is a long term pre disc replacement decision that you’ll have to make

Pre Disc Replacement Preparation – Long Term Factors

(i)                  Selecting the right disc is very important and FDA approved discs are now available and are often recommended by surgeons.

(ii)                The device used during ADR will be a permanent part of your body and such devices will be available in various designs. However, it will make sense for you to go in for the tried and tested ones.

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Disc Replacement Surgery Recovery – Immediate and Long Term Measures

Disc replacement surgery recovery can be quick and successful if a few basic precautions are taken.

The Need for Disc Replacement Surgery Recovery

Artificial disc replacement surgery brings relief from the disc pain symptoms that are experienced by patients suffering from degenerative disc diseases and it scores over the more traditional spinal fusion method as ADR allows greater mobility post-surgery.

The techniques and artificial disc implants involved are improving and developing constantly and success rates are high. However, like all surgeries, post operative care and treatment plays a big role in disc replacement surgery recovery.

Disc Replacement Surgery Recovery – Immediate Post-Operative Measures

(i)                  Back surgery recovery does involve spending a minimum of two days in the hospital. Most patients experience an immediate relief from acute pain. If you do have higher than expected levels of pains during disc replacement surgery recovery, your hospital stay should and will be extended.

(ii)                The doctor will encourage you to walk within a few hours of the surgery. Push yourself to do so even if you do not feel up to it. A physical therapist will advise you on how to make the right moves while getting out of bed.

(iii)               Before leaving the hospital, make sure you have a clear understanding on how to take care of your incision. The most common advice given is to keep the incision dry and clean and let nature do the healing.

Disc Replacement Surgery Recovery

Never push your body beyond a certain limit during the disc replacement surgery recovery phase

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Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery – What Happens During the Procedure

Artificial Disc Replacement surgery is the most effective treatment for cases where patients suffer from Severe Degenerative Disc Disease.

The Need for Artificial Disc Replacement

The disc is the portion of the vertebrae that acts as cushioning between the various bones of the spine. It is composed of cartilage and tissue, with a soft center called a nucleus and an outer covering called annulus.  These discs act as shock absorbers in the spine and protect the vertebral bones against damage from any trauma, strain or injury.

They absorb the shock of falls, allow flexibility in turning and bending, and absorb some of the pressure placed on the vertebrae when any strenuous activity like lifting weights is followed. But, as the years go by, these discs might lose their flexibility and cushioning. They may dry up, become distended, get pushed out, tear or split.

While in most cases this normal wear and tear does not really affect the functioning of the body in any perceptible way, some conditions, through natural degeneration or through injury, may cause chronic pain and discomfort.

Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery

Artificial disc replacement surgery is often used to treat degenerative disc disorders

Treatments for Degenerative Disc Disease

Most degenerative disc disorders don’t need surgical intervention. Some might be simple issues that a few days rest and a few strengthening exercises can cure. Other disorders might need frequent application of hot or cold packs, and some might need physical therapy, while more severe cases might need surgical interference.

  • Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery

Artificial Disc Surgery is a relatively new surgical procedure that has emerged as a treatment for injured or damaged discs. In this procedure, part or the whole of a disc might be removed and replaced with an artificial disc made of plastic or metal, or a combination of both. The patient has to be under anesthesia during surgery.

  • Cervical Disc Replacement Surgery

Cervical Disc Replacement Surgery involves replacing a damaged disc in the neck. In this procedure, the damaged disc is removed, and the bones above and below this disc are separated to the correct distance, in a way that they would be apart if a normal undamaged disc were present between them. Then the artificial disc is inserted into this space. The patient can go home within a day or two of this procedure.

  • Lumbar Disc Replacement Surgery

Lumbar disc replacement or back disc replacement surgery is the replacement of an affected disc in the lower vertebrae. Lumbar disc replacement technology has been used for long in Europe and there are several different procedures. The disc replacement can be partial or full. The hospital stay for lumbar disc replacement surgery is two to four days.

The Disc Replacement Surgery Procedure

Generally, partial disc replacement surgery involves the replacement of the soft center of the disc known as the nucleus. In full disc replacement, both the nucleus and the annulus are replaced.

Full Disc Replacement Surgery

The general method for full disc replacement is to use two plates and a soft central piece to replace the damaged disc. The two plates are attached to the bones above and below the disc being replaced. The soft center is then inserted between these pieces, and these generally curved surfaces then facilitate movement by sliding across each other.

Partial Disc Replacement Surgery

Nucleus replacement procedures generally use soft plastic type of materials. One, called Hydrogel, expands on absorbing water. When placed into the nuclear cavity, this device expands and fills the cavity. Another design is to use a plastic-like coil to fill the cavity.

Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery, though newer than the conventional fusion process, is more effective and allows patients more natural functioning after the surgery. It provides quicker and long term relief, if all the pre disc replacement and post operative disc surgery recovery procedures are followed correctly.

Disc Pain Diagnosis – Testing the Causes Behind the Need for ADR

Through disc pain diagnosis, the actual cause behind the pain can be verified and further treatment methods (like artificial disc replacement surgery) can be specified according to the patient’s medical condition.

The Disc Pain Diagnosis Process

Some Information on Degenerative Disc Disorder

The vertebrae are stacks of bones that make up the spine. There are seven vertebrae in the neck (Cervical), twelve in the mid-back (Thoracic) and five in the lower back (Lumbar) region. The spine provides flexibility and movement to our upper body.

The bones of the vertebrae have disc-like padding between them and these discs act as shock-absorbers, taking part of the impact of strenuous activities like running and jumping and facilitate easy movement. The discs have a soft inner component and a tougher outer ring.

With age, the discs in the spine degenerate and they lose their flexibility and cushioning effect. This can result in disc disorders like cervical disc disorder, and herniated discs, which bring about high levels of pain.

Disc Pain Diagnosis

A CT scan is generally taken during disc pain diagnosis in order to zero in on the problem

Bulging Disc Diagnosis of Degenerative Disc Disorder

Degenerative Disc Disorder is diagnosed in several steps. The patient’s medical history is studied and then the symptoms and duration of the pain are studied. Some physical examinations are then carried out, like spinal examinations, testing nerve functions, neck movements or leg movements.

These disc pain diagnosis steps may be enough to confirm the condition and if further confirmation is needed, an X-Ray, MRI or CT scan might be performed to study any damage to the spinal discs. These disc pain diagnosis scans and tests can reveal if there is disc damage or distortion, if any disc has dried up or split or been pushed out.

However, evidence of disc damage is not an indication of any disease as such. Vertebral discs do get damaged as part of the ageing process, and most people still continue to physically function well without any discomfort. Only when there is chronic pain that can be associated with disc damage does it actually indicate the presence of a degenerative disc disorder.

Disc damage can also be caused by injury or trauma like improperly lifting heavy loads, and sudden strenuous turns or movements that put too much strain on the spine.

Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment

Once disc pain diagnosis is done with positive results, the patient might be prescribed various types of treatment.

Some of the possible treatment options for degenerative disc disease have been given below.

  • Simple conditions can be treated with bed-rest and strengthening exercises on recovery. Hot or cold ice packs may also be prescribed.
  • More severe conditions might require physical therapy and traction. If the pain is severe, anti-inflammatory medicines might be prescribed.
  • Back braces and tractions can sometimes relieve the pressure placed on the spine and help reduce vertebral pain.
  • Electrotherapy (that involves using electric current that is transmitted to the affected region) is often done to prevent swelling and reduce pain
  • Severe cases might require surgical procedures:
    •  Chemonucleolysis dissolves a bulging disc that might be stressing any  adjacent nerves. Laminectomy relieves nerve compression and reduces the  pain.
    •  Lumbar Inter-body Fusion (LIF) involves removing the damaged disc and  fusing together the two vertebral bones that were separated by the disc.
    •  A relatively new procedure called Artificial Disc Replacement is performed,  and here the damaged disc is replaced with an artificial disc.

Degeneration or deterioration of the vertebral disc is actually a normal process, a part of aging. While in most cases, this does not cause any noticeable negative effects, in some cases the damage or distortion of the disc might be such that it causes physical discomfort and pain.

In such cases, the cause of the pain needs to be determined through disc pain diagnosis to determine if spinal disc damage is the cause. If a degenerative disc problem is confirmed, various treatment methods might be prescribed, from ice packs to surgical procedures, depending on the severity of the condition.

The Primary Causes and Disc Pain Symptoms Behind Artificial Disc Replacement

Patients who suffer from disc pain symptoms often go in for artificial disc replacement after proper medical consultation, and the disc pain causes that bring about these bulging disc symptoms can vary.

Disc Pain Symptoms and the Reasons Behind Them

Degenerative disc disease is one of the main problems that can throw up disc pain symptoms and disc pain diagnosis might indicate a need for artificial disc replacement.

Degenerative Disc Disease

Spinal discs are soft discs that separate the bones in the vertebrae. Degenerative disc disease is a term used to describe the changes in the spinal disc that normally occur as a part of the aging process. While this process is normal, and mostly causes no ill effects, sometimes it can cause pain and other complications.

Disc Pain Symptoms

Disc pain symptoms can mainly rise due to degenerative disc disorders

The Causes Behind Degenerative Disc Disease

Slipped discs, herniated discs, and degenerative disc disease are all loosely interchangeable terms used to describe the pain caused by a damaged disc in the vertebrae. These discs act as cushions or shock absorbers, softening the impact caused on the spine by any strenuous activity or a fall.

But, over the years, the elasticity and cushioning effects of these discs might be damaged and they may also get split or ruptured or pushed out. This can cause the disc cartilage and adjacent tissue to tear, causing the inner gel to leak through and place pressure on the spinal cord or a nerve, bring about disc pain symptoms.

Slipped Disc or Herniated Disc Causes

  • Low water content in the discs as people age can result in the loss of cushioning and elasticity in such discs
  • Wear and tear caused by routine activities and sports can bring about disc pain symptoms
  • Injury from improper lifting of weights or any injury to the spinal region can cause disc pain symptoms
  • Strain caused by sudden twisting or turning motion and excessive strain caused by strenuous physical activities can play a major role

The Types of Disc Disorders

Cervical Disc Disorder

Cervical disk disorder is neck pain caused by damage to the vertebral discs in the neck region. In cervical disc disorder, the discs become worn out, damaged and cease to provide the cushioning effect. The space between the vertebrae is narrowed, and this can result in pressure on nerve roots.

Lumbar Disc Disorder

Lumbar is the vertebrae in the lower back region. Injury or strain caused by a twisting motion can cause this kind of disc damage, but a disorder like this is more commonly caused due to the natural ageing process.

Thoracic Disc Degeneration

This is extremely uncommon. The thoracic region lies along the mid vertebrae region or upper back. Generally, it is the neck and lower back regions that get most affected during such a disorder.

Disc pain symptoms that are commonly experienced during these different disorders include:

  • Severe back pain
  • Feeling of discomfort while remaining in sitting position for long
  • Changing position frequently helps relieve pain.
  • Pain down the back of each leg
  • Numbness and tingling in the affected region
  • Pain with strenuous movement
  • Neck and arm pain
  • Stiffness of the neck

Degenerative disc disorders manifest themselves in different ways and such a disorder might result in lower back pain or neck pain, or neck stiffness, a general discomfort in the spinal region, reduced flexibility and strength of the vertebral structure. If this condition gets severe, artificial disc replacement surgery might be the best option that can be taken up to counter the disc pain symptoms.

An Introduction to Artificial Disc Replacement

Artificial Disc Replacement is basically an implant that is used to replace a worn out or diseased intervertebral disc. The artificial disc is a metal or plastic prosthesis. Until the recent past, the surgery was more popular in Europe than in the United States. Artificial disc replacement surgery is at present confined to the lumbar spinal region – which is the lower section of the spine.

Artificial Disc

Artificial disc replacement can help in repairing the damage done to the spinal articular cartilage

When Does Artificial Disc Replacement Become Necessary?

The intervertebral disc is located between each pair of vertebrae and functions as the body’s shock absorber. A healthy intervertebral disc helps protect the spine during activities like running, jumping and lifting. Once the intervertebral disc starts degenerating, the two vertebras come closer to each other.

Damage to the intervertebral disc also affects structures like the facet joints. The end result is damage to the articular cartilage which leads to arthritis. The reduction in height between the vertebrae plus arthritis can also affect nerve endings that get squeezed, leading to crippling pain.

Sometimes, a tear in the intervertebral lumbar disc causes its soft inner portion to spill out. This tear will release chemical mediators into the body that can cause severe pain. This condition is known as a herniated disc or a slip disc and is also an indicator for artificial disc replacement.

The Artificial Disc Replacement Procedure

Disc Replacement

Artificial disc replacement can help in treating slipped discs

The surgery is done under general anesthesia. An incision is made near the umbilicus and the damaged intervertebral disc is removed using special instruments. The surgeon will then restore the height between the two vertebras which had reduced due to the collapse of the lumbar disc.

Once the vertebras are restored to their original position, the artificial disc is inserted. The incision is then closed with special surgical glue. The entire procedure takes two to three hours.

The Different Types of Artificial Disc

Disc Replacement procedure

The artificial disc replacement procedure can be of two types – total disc and disc nucleus

There are two kinds of surgery that can be performed. These are broadly classified as total disc replacement and disc nucleus replacement. In total disc replacement, almost the entire disc is removed, while in disc nucleus replacement, only the central part of the disc is replaced with prosthesis.

There are also disc replacements that are used to replace damaged discs in the cervical area. However, these are not yet approved for use in the United States though studies are being conducted.

The Benefits of Artificial Disc Replacement

Prior to artificial disc replacement, spinal disc fusion surgery was used to treat degeneration of the lumbar disc or herniated disc. Spinal fusion surgery meant that the two vertebrae were fused together using a bone graft. However, the problem with spinal fusion surgery was the resultant loss in motion.

In the long run, spinal fusion also resulted in extra stress on adjacent vertebrae. Artificial disc replacement surgery does provide good pain relief without compromising on mobility. It also does not place any extra stress on adjacent vertebrae. However, the long term impact of artificial disc replacement is yet to be assessed.

The artificial disc replacement surgery involves a two to four day hospital stay as well as physical and occupational therapy for complete disc replacement recovery.