The Lowdown on Low Back Pain
(and Other Aches)


Will an artificial disc replacement help my chronic pain?

Artificial discs, or total disc replacements, are metal and plastic devices that were developed to repair worn out discs in the neck and back. Artificial disc surgery, however, remains both controversial and experimental. It may become FDA approved in the United States in a few months. A few doctors are already recommending this operation.

Cervical disc surgery is currently done using bone to replace the damaged disc. This procedure can be done with minimally invasive techniques and is effective in up to 90% of patients. The mechanical cervical disc is more complex, takes longer, and may have more risks.

Lumbar disc surgery can be done with or without a disc replacement. When only a portion of the disc is removed, the disc does not need to be replaced. When the entire disc is removed, or when there is instability, we currently replace the disc with a piece of bone. The bone replacement procedure is called a fusion. The mechanical artificial disc would be used instead of the bone. The artificial disc may work better in some people, and the operation may be less painful. The artificial disc is, however, more complex and may break down. All other artificial joints wear out and need to be replaced or repaired periodically. Fixing a worn out artificial disc would be a major procedure.

Before considering a new or experimental procedure, such as an artificial disc surgery, one should weigh the options carefully and consider a second opinion. Common sense dictates that one should be wary of new or unproven procedures. 



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.

Copyright 2007, Northern California Neurosurgery Medical Group. All rights are reserved.  No part of this web site may be reproduced, transmitted, or stored, electronically or on paper, without the written permission of the Northern California Neurosurgery Medical Group, Inc.
Last modified: 07/27/08