The Lowdown on Low Back Pain
(and Other Aches)


I have heard that an “artificial disc” could cure my chronic back pain.
Please tell me more.

Lumbar fusion surgery is sometimes recommended for chronic back pain caused by disc disease. Lumbar fusion surgery is one type of disc replacement. The bad disc is replaced with solid bone. Artificial disc surgery, or a total disc replacement, may soon replace some fusion surgery.

An artificial disc is a metal and plastic device. It looks like two connected saucers. Unlike a replacement done with bone, the metal and plastic disc replacement allows for some movement. It is inserted from the front through a small incision below the navel. The operation lasts about two hours. A three or four-day hospital stay is required.

Although it is promising, the artificial disc is still an experimental device. Although it has been available for some time in Europe, testing has just begun in the United States. The procedure may be available here within one or two years. The artificial disc will not fix all types of back pain and cannot be used in all patients.

If you are thinking about having an artificial disc surgery, you need to know that it remains very controversial. For the same reasons you might not want to buy an experimental type of car, you might not want to have an experimental type of surgery. For more information, consult your spine specialist.



The information in this site briefly describes issues related to medical treatments, and has been licensed by from Northern California Neurosurgery Medical Group, Inc., who is solely responsible for said content.  This web site is not a substitute for good medical care or for a consultation with a spine specialist. It should not be used to plan your treatment. The well considered advice of a specialist who has personally examined you is always superior to even the best internet pages.

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Last modified: 07/27/08