When it’s necessary for a surgeon to replace a deteriorated or otherwise damaged disc in the cervical region with an artificial one (often made of stainless steel and comprising a ball and trough combination), artificial disc arthroplasty is undertaken. The procedure is most commonly used for patients with severe neck pain and/or radiculopathy (pain and numbness that moves through the chest and into the arms) caused by an injury to the spinal cord, spinal stenosis, arthritis in a facet joint or cervical kyphosis.
A surgeon will approach the damaged disc by making an incision in the neck to gain access to the spine. The damaged or deteriorating disc is then removed, as are any bone fragments that may be impacting nearby nerves or nerve roots. The vertebrae above and below the space where the disc was removed are then “shaped” in order to ensure a proper fit of the implant.
The artificial replacement device, once implanted, is secured in place with a series of screws and is designed to allow the patient a normal range of motion—including bending, turning and twisting—while the spine is kept in proper alignment.
Post-surgery, most patients are released from the hospital within two days, and normal range of motion and movement returns fairly quickly. However complications can arise during the recovery and healing process, including a displacement of the implanted device due to mistakes made in sizing as well as negative nerve reactions at the site of the procedure, which may lead to lingering pain and a loss of normal motion in the spine.