To Move Or Not To Move?
About half of Americans complain of lower back pain, which can persist for years. As a result, a spinal surgeon may sometimes recommend surgery to correct degenerative discs, sciatica, or spinal stenosis. For years, fusions have been the gold standard of spinal surgeries. The doctor removes discs or other material to allow the nearby vertebrae to fuse into one bone. A big drawback is the complete loss of motion in that area. Now, doctors are opting for motion preservation surgery through total disc replacement. This technique treats the spinal condition while allowing future mobility.
Understanding total disc replacement
Total disc replacement is one of several motion preservation techniques doctors use instead of fusion. Between the vertebrae are discs that help with mobility and shock absorption. However, due to injury or wear and tear, the discs can lose hydration or shift out of place, pressing on nearby nerves. A total disc replacement extracts the damaged disc and installs an artificial piece. This surgery is geared toward a patient who has tried non-surgical methods without success. Here are 3 fantastic benefits of this motion preservation surgery.
1. You restore mobility
With spinal fusions, patients will have less pain but also less mobility. A total disc replacement gives the patient more mobility. The replacement is designed to mimic the movement of the original disc. After physical therapy and recovery, most patients can resume activities like work and sports. With a fusion, some activities are no longer recommended.
2. It can be an MIS
Surgery does not always mean large incisions several inches long. Some patients can benefit from minimally invasive surgery (MIS). For example, the surgeon can use MIS on a disc replacement with a few small incisions the size of buttonholes. A scope and tools allow the surgeon to visualize the spine, remove the disc, and install the replacement. For patients, this means less postoperative pain, lower chance of infection, and faster recovery.
3. Long-lasting with high success rates
After proper rehabilitation and pain management, most patients respond well to total disc replacements. Furthermore, studies show that disc replacements have better outcomes over a 7-10-year period than fusions. The artificial disc material is durable and made to last for years, so patients should not have to worry about replacements.
The future in motion
A total disc replacement does not eliminate the need for fusions, at least not yet. Different surgical options may be appropriate for different patients. Of course, all surgeries come with risks, and a total disc replacement is no exception. The surgeon must also discuss and find the most viable option for the patient. In some cases, this may mean fusion surgery. Still, there has been significant progress in motion preservation techniques. For instance, surgeons can use posterior dynamic stabilization devices, a combination of screws and rods that allow for controlled movement. If back surgery is on the horizon and the patient wants to maintain some mobility, consider total disc replacement.