ADR is an alternative to traditional spinal fusion and can help treat the pain associated with degenerative disc disease (DDD), a condition that affects an estimated 200,000 to 400,000 people in the United States each year. Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) is defined as a disc that has worn out or become injured and causes back pain.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first artificial lumbar disc in October 2004. Disc replacement replaces one or more damaged, diseased, or degenerated discs with artificial discs. The artificial disc is constructed from a polyethylene core sandwiched between two endplates made of a cobalt-chrome alloy. It restores the vertebrae above and below the disc to their normal position, thereby preventing them from pressing on the nerves between them and causing pain. By inserting new discs, this procedure preserves the flexibility of the spine. These materials usually do not harm the human body and are used in many other medical implants such as total knee replacement implants.
Your doctor can help you determine if you are a candidate for the an Artificial Disc. But generally those who have DDD and are experiencing ongoing neck or lower back pain that does not respond to conservative treatments may be a candidate for ADR.
Long term studies suggest that artificial disc replacement technology protects the adjacent levels of the spine from degeneration due to overloading. As opposed to spinal fusion, ADR maintains or restores mobility of the spine. The results from the study conducted in this country to gain FDA approval show similarly positive results. Patients who received the artificial disc maintained flexibility, experienced improvements in pain and function, left the hospital sooner and were more satisfied with the procedure. The studies compared groups of patients receiving either the artificial disc or traditional fusion surgery. The rates of complications were similar for the two groups.
When appropriate, ADR can be used to treat patients of any age with either single - and multiple-level disc degeneration. In addition, some patients who experience sciatica, or pain that radiates down the leg, along with back pain, will be able to receive the implant.
Patient response to disc replacement has been very positive. The surgery requires an anterior approach, which is a small incision made below the patient’s belly button. After removing the diseased disc, the surgeon then inserts the new, artificial disc in its place, securing the disc to the rest of the spine with the patient’s own ligaments and the annulus (hard part) of the diseased disc. Disc replacement surgery has a shorter recovery process and allows a faster return to normal activity. Patients also report less post-operative pain.