Lumbar fusion is one available treatment for some types of chronic back
pain. Lumbar fusion is a type of “disc replacement.” When a fusion is
done, the diseased and painful disc is replaced with a solid piece of
bone. “Artificial discs” or “total disc replacements” are similar in some
ways. Instead of using bone, however, the bad disc is replaced with a
metal and plastic appliance. “Artificial discs” are still experimental.
Although some have been available in Europe for a few years, testing has
just begun in the United States. According to the FDA, the procedure is
not yet felt to be safe.
“artificial disc” is made from metal and plastic. It looks like stacked
saucers. Unlike a replacement with bone, in a fusion, replacements using
the metal and plastic will hopefully preserve some movement. The
“artificial disc” will be inserted from the front through a small incision
below the navel. The operation lasts about an hour and a half. A three or
four-day hospital stay will be required.
Even if successful for some problems, the “artificial disc” will not
fix all back pain. For more information, consult your spine specialist.