Are You a Candidate for an Artificial Disc?

Back pain is a common problem. In fact, an estimated 70%-80% of people will have some form of lower back pain during their lifetime. While most people don’t need surgery to ease their symptoms, it can still be the best option when conservative treatments fail to provide relief.

Dr. Arien Smith specializes in treating spinal disorders at Brain and Spine Institute of New York and New Jersey. Whenever possible, Dr. Smith treats back problems with noninvasive methods. However, there are times when artificial disc replacement can provide the best results. Are you a candidate?

The problem with back pain

It’s easy to assume that most back pain stems from strained muscles. However, spinal discs in your neck and lower back are equally prone to injury, like herniated discs

Spinal discs are round, flat, rubbery cushions sandwiched between the vertebrae of your spine. Their job is to absorb shock and create mobility in your spinal column, and they keep your vertebrae from rubbing against each other. 

Unfortunately, you subject them to stresses on a daily basis — even sitting too much or slouching can put added strain on your spine. Plus, discs begin losing strength and pliability with age. This leaves them even more prone to damage, disease, and degeneration, especially when under stress.

The good news is that an artificial disc can replace a disc that’s damaged beyond repair. This approach helps reduce your pain while preserving normal spine function.

How artificial discs work

Artificial discs initially gained approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2004. Since then, designs have advanced, and technology continues to improve. 

There are numerous designs, but all artificial disc implants share a similar goal: reproducing the size and function of a healthy intervertebral disc. A typical artificial disc includes two end plates that attach to the surrounding vertebrae. These plates hold a central “joint” made of synthetic material to simulate the disc itself, allowing for bending and twisting within the spine. 

Dr. Smith performs artificial disc surgery while you’re under general anesthesia. During your procedure, he removes damaged disc tissue and replaces it with your new artificial implant. The entire process takes 2-3 hours and usually requires a short hospital stay, about 2-3 days.

Most people experience improvements from their symptoms within a few weeks or months after the procedure, but it may not completely eliminate your back pain.

When to consider artificial disc surgery

When you have back pain, Dr. Smith performs a comprehensive assessment to determine the source of your pain. If you have disc damage, he typically begins treatment with medications, physical therapy, and targeted injections. If these conservative approaches don’t provide relief, he may recommend artificial disc replacement surgery.

Factors that could make you a good candidate for artificial disc surgery include:

To determine if disc replacement is right for you, Dr. Smith performs imaging tests — like MRIs, discography, or CT scans — and he discusses your overall goals for the procedure.

Do you want to learn if an artificial disc replacement might be right for you? Contact the Brain and Spine Institute of New York and New Jersey location nearest you by calling or scheduling an appointment online today. 

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