Weighing the Benefits and Risks of Artificial Disc Replacement

Robotics and Spine Surgery

Available as an option for patients with some type of identifiable disc damage or herniation, artificial disc replacement is still considered a fairly new procedure. It’s an alternative option for the more common spinal fusion surgery. As with any surgical option, there are both benefits and risks worth considering before making a final decision.

Benefits

Involving the replacement of a damaged disc with one that has been artificially replicated, artificial disc replacement is slowly becoming more commonplace. There have been several extensive clinical studies involving artificial disc replacement, with results often showing a positive outcome for patients and few instances of the need for revision surgery.

The main benefit of artificial disc replacement is that range of motion is preserved since the damaged disc is replaced rather than removed prior to a fusion. Additional benefits of artificial disc replacement include:

  •  Reduced recovery time
  •  Less stress on adjacent discs
  •  Fewer post-surgery complications

Risks

The biggest risk associated with artificial disc replacement is the lack of any long-term studies at this point. It’s also not known how long the artificial disc will be able to last. However, long-term studies from Europe, where the procedure has a longer history, suggest eventual breakdown of the implant is rare.

There’s always the possibility artificial disc replacement could fail to provide meaningful relief or result in unintended nerve damage. Potential complications directly related to the procedure may also include:

  •  Collapse of the implant
  •   Allergic reaction to implant material
  •  Infection at the surgical site
  •  Late infection following surgery

Weighing Benefits and Risks

Not every spine surgeon capable of performing artificial disc replacement has extensive experience with the technique, which can also increase the potential for complications. Since every patient is different, however, any determination of whether or not the procedure is right for you should include a discussion with your doctor or multiple surgeons.

While there are many potential benefits to artificial disc replacement over traditional surgeries, not every patient is an ideal candidate for the procedure. Individual factors, such as overall health and the specific cause of your back pain, should also be considered.

Learn more about artificial disc replacement and other motion-preserving spine surgeries by reaching out to The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration at (310) 828-7757. Our team of diagnosticians and spine surgeons can help you rediscover a pain-free life.