What to Expect After Your Artificial Disc Replacement

What to Expect After Your Artificial Disc Replacement

Replacing damaged and diseased parts of the body with artificial devices can offer life-changing results. And minimally invasive techniques mean they come with fewer risks, side effects, and faster recovery times. However, that doesn’t mean you’re back to yourself immediately, especially if you undergo artificial disc replacement surgery.

Dr. Arien Smith specializes in complex and innovative treatments for brain and spine disorders at Brain and Spine Institute of New York and New Jersey. Whenever possible, Dr. Smith turns to conservative strategies to address symptoms, like physical therapy, medications, and injections. However, when you need more advanced procedures, you’re in expert hands.

One treatment Dr. Smith proudly offers is artificial disc replacement. This alternative to traditional spinal fusion surgery leaves patients with less pain while preserving normal physical movement at the same time. 

If you have back problems that haven’t responded to conservative methods, here’s what you can expect from this procedure.

How artificial disc replacement works

Artificial disc replacement serves a similar function as joint replacement procedures for the hip or knee — mainly, it replaces a diseased or damaged part of the body with a prosthetic device. In this case, an intervertebral disc in your spine.

Discs sit in between the bones or vertebrae in your spine. Their job is to create flexibility in your spinal column so you can bend and twist, and they absorb impact. The challenge is that these discs can also sustain damage and deteriorate with age. When this occurs, the disc can lose its shape and structure, leading to back pain or neck pain.

In the past, experts often repaired this damage by performing spinal fusion surgery. This procedure permanently joins two vertebrae to improve stability in the spine and eliminate painful motion.

Dr. Smith uses artificial disc replacement to address the same issue, replacing your damaged disk with a new, artificial one made from metal, biopolymer, or a combination of the two.

What to expect from an artificial disc replacement

It usually takes approximately 2-3 hours for Dr. Smith to perform your procedure. In most cases, he accesses your disc through an incision in the front of your body to avoid contact with delicate spinal nerves in the back.

You can usually expect to stay in the hospital for 1-3 days. However, you should be standing and walking by the first day and back to most “daily living” activities two days later. 

In fact, certain movement is often encouraged early on, especially walking and stretching. However, Dr. Smith provides detailed guidelines on which motions and activities to limit while your bone heals around the artificial disc. 

In most cases, you begin a physical therapy program within a few weeks of your surgery. You can typically expect activity restrictions to last approximately one month, and you can often resume normal activities within 4-6 weeks after surgery — except for contact sports.

Because you’re undergoing surgery, it’s completely normal to have some pain and discomfort after your procedure, especially at the incision site. However, these symptoms usually fade within the first week or two as your body heals. 

Living with an artificial disc

After having disc replacement surgery, you need regular appointments to monitor your implant. Typically, these visits occur: 

Then, they continue every 1-2 years for the life of the disc replacement — similar to patients who undergo hip or knee replacement procedures. 

Are you looking for alternatives to spinal fusion surgery? With locations across New York and New Jersey, it’s easy to find expert care. Contact the Brain and Spine Institute of New York and New Jersey office nearest you to schedule a consultation with Dr. Smith today.

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