Fellowship Trained Orthopedic Surgeon

Do you suffer from neck or back pain? You may be a candidate for the spinal fusion or disc replacement surgery.

Similar to hip and knee joint replacements, significant advancements have been made in disc replacement surgery for treating neck and spine conditions.  Traditional spinal fusion involves removing painful discs and fusing two or more vertebrae together.  This results in limited mobility.  Disc replacement surgery replaces the painful disc with an artificial disc to enable the neck/spine to function as intended without loss of motion. Artificial discs are structurally similar to natural discs, which serve as shock absorbers in the neck and back.

Artificial Disc Implantation

Dr. Armen Khachatryan, an orthopedic spine surgeon at the Center of Orthopedic & Rehabilitation Excellence in West Jordan, helped pioneer artificial disc implantation as an alternative to the traditional spinal fusion procedure. Hear a patient discuss his successful results during a Fox 13 news segment.

How Disc Replacement is Performed

An artificial disc replacement is performed using an anterior approach, which means that a surgeon performs the procedure through the front of the neck or abdomen. With an anterior approach, the organs and blood vessels must first be moved aside to enable the surgeon access to the spine without affecting nearby nerves. The surgeon removes the worn or degenerated disc and replaces it with an artificial disc. In general, most disc replacement surgeries are completed within one to two hours, but this can vary by patient.

Disc Replacement, an Effective Solution for Many Conditions

If you suffer from one or more of the following neck or back conditions, you may be a candidate for artificial disc replacement surgery to relieve your pain symptoms:

Benefits of Disc Replacement Surgery

When compared to conventional spinal fusion surgery, artificial disc replacement surgery in the neck or back provides many benefits:

  • Preserves range of motion for a more natural feeling in the neck or back
  • Prevents degeneration of discs above and/or below the affected disc(s)
  • Does not require bone grafting, which can cause pain
  • Requires a less invasive surgery, resulting in lower surgical risks, less pain and less blood loss
  • Offers a faster recovery, so patients can return to activities sooner
  • Reduced risk of revision surgical procedure

Risks of Disc Replacement Surgery

As is the case with all types of surgeries, disc replacement surgery involves risks. Complications from surgery may include anesthesia problems, blood clotting, infection, nerve injury, device issues, etc. Always consult with a physician before committing to any type of surgical procedure to learn about specific surgical risks.

What to Expect Before Disc Replacement Surgery

You may be required to undergo a medical examination and pre-surgical tests to determine the nature of your neck or back pain, and to determine if you are a viable candidate for disc replacement surgery. Tests may include blood and urine tests, heart checks, X-rays and diagnostic images of the affected area. Diagnostic testing may include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerized tomography (CT).

The surgeon will also review any medications that you are currently taking, and will outline what medications you should continue to take until the procedure. You will also be instructed to not eat or drink anything for a certain number of hours leading up to the procedure. You may also meet with an anesthesiologist to discuss your options. 

What to Expect During Disc Replacement Surgery

At the time of surgery, the surgeon will make an incision in the neck or abdomen, and will carefully move organs and blood vessels aside to allow access to the spine. The surgeon will surgically remove the damaged/worn disc and position the artificial unit in place. Any moved organs and blood vessels will be repositioned, the incision will be closed, and you will be relocated to a recovery suite where you will be closely monitored by an experienced team of health care professionals.

What to Expect After Disc Replacement Surgery

Following disc replacement surgery, you will remain in the hospital for an average of one to two days for continued close monitoring. You may be encouraged by our team of physical therapists to stand and walk within a day following surgery. Full recovery from disc replacement surgery takes approximately six weeks, which is less than half of the time it takes to recover from fusion surgery.

The physical therapy team may recommend additional movements and exercises to maintain flexibility and mobility in your spine and/or neck. The more you adhere to these recommendations, the faster your recovery process. The surgeon and/or physical therapy team will also provide you with guidelines as to what types of movements to avoid, such as jarring motions.

Please note, disc replacement surgery is designed to lessen pain symptoms, but may not eliminate pain completely.