Considering Artificial Disc Replacement

Neck and low back pain accounts for between $50 billion and $75 billion in direct and indirect costs each year in the United States, and more than 1 million surgeries are performed to address these issues annually. Back pain is particularly problematic, as it’s the fifth leading cause of hospital admission and third most common reason for surgery. Among the working population, 90% will have an incident of low back or neck pain during their career. Although the vast majority of these cases will heal within 3 to 6 weeks with conservative physical therapy and medications, a small percentage of patients will often turn to surgery as a last resort. The gold standard over the past 30 years for degenerative discs or damage to spinal discs has been to fuse that level of the spine with bone using plates and screws. Fusion surgeries, however, can cause stiffness and may take 6 to 12 months to solidify. These surgeries may also increase stress on adjacent spinal levels, leading to degeneration. These discs adjacent to a fusion may become diseased at higher rates than discs not adjacent to a fusion. Preserving Motion with Artificial Disc Replacement About a decade ago, several level 1 FDA trials began exploring motion-preservation treatments, primarily artificial disc replacement. This procedure cleans out a bad disc and replaces it with an artificial device that allows normal range of motion. The half dozen completed trials comparing treatments have shown that the outcomes of artificial disc replacement appear to be superior, or at least equivalent, to fusion surgery. “The outcomes of artificial disc replacement appear to be superior, or...