Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery 

What is Artificial Disc Replacement?
This involves replacing the old and worn out disc with an artificial disc that is made of a material that is meant to last . This procedure has been used in clinical trials in Europe for about 15 years. Mr Mo Akmal has used this procedure in the United Kingdom for 12 years now, with exceptional results.

What Is The Success Rate?
The success rate for artificial disc replacement surgery is not as straight forward as listing a series of spine surgery statistics. Success is judged on many subjective and objective measures. The artificial disc replacement is usually judged as successful if the patient’s pain is dramatically reduced, mobility is restored and there is no lingering complication. Please note that we do not say that the pain will be completely eliminated, only that it will be dramatically reduced.

If a patient has experienced back pain for many years from degenerative disc disease, changes due to compression of the ligaments of the spine, the spinal processes and nerves may still cause pain after the artificial disc is inserted. Nerve changes may cause phantom pain, which is pain that is no longer caused by the initial mechanical force on the nerve. So while the doctor from an objective point of view considers the artificial disc operation a success, the patient may not, because pain is still present. This is why we hear success rates varing between 70% and 96%.

These success rates for the artificial disc replacement are significantly higher than fusion operations, which are usually rated between 50% and 55%. What is not often included in fusion spine surgery statistics is the 25% of fusion patients that have significant pain from the bone harvesting of the vertebral plug in the hip.

Good pre-op testing and diagnosis are the most important part in developing a patient’s treament plan and enhances the chance for success. Also, a determination to manage post-op pain by the patient, if present, is important to the long term success of the artificial disc procedure, as phantom pain can be mitigated or stopped. One should remember that spine surgery statistic only tell part of the story where artificial disc replacement surgery is concerned.

As with any surgical procedure, there are some risks involved. This doesn’t mean these things will happen, it’s just good to stay informed as to what the risks are. This is a list associated with artificial disc replacement as well as for cervical fusion.