Cervical disc replacement is the modern way to treat neck disease. Ask to be seen by a specialist that has more than a decade of experience with disc replacement.
Cervical fusion has been the most common treatment of neck disease for a long time. Fusion involves turning two bones into one and stopping motion. This is useful for deformity and fractures where stability is needed but less useful for common problems like a herniated disc, neck arthritis, or disc degeneration where a patient would benefit from motion preservation over fused bones. Cervical disc replacement in my practice has become the most common neck operation for patients younger than 65 years of age.
Advantages of Disc Replacement
The advantages of disc replacement are:
Challenges to disc replacement:
- Outpatient surgery for most patients
- Less time to recovery
- Statistically better results compared to fusion
- Lower risk of reoperation at the same level
- Lower risk of reoperation at any other level in the neck
- Disc replacements last a long time with very little chance of revision
- Insurances rarely cover more than two disc replacements during one operation
- Certain arthritis does not respond well to disc replacement
- Instability / looseness in the neck caused by fracture or degeneration can limit options for some patients
Disc Replacement Procedure
The surgery is performed by a small 1 inch incision made in the front of the neck. The approach works around the important structures in the neck and arrives at the front of the spine. The disease disc is removed and bone spurs and nerve compression is alleviated using a microscope for removal. An artificial disc is inserted carefully placing it near the midline and at the proper depth. The surgery is usually outpatient and takes less than an hour for a one level operation. Restrictions are in place while the tissues heal and the disc attaches to the surrounding bone. Most major insurances cover this operation except Medicare which restricts access to this technology.
Aftercare and Recovery
Most patients go home the same day and need to follow restrictions for 4-6 weeks after surgery. Generally, some help is needed but usually not for very long. You will notice some swallowing difficulty and swelling but that recovers fairly quickly for most patients. Ideally, you can use NSAIDS like ibuprofen instead of opiates like morphine for pain management. These help prevent bone growth that can lead to fusion and also help with pain in a non-habit forming way. By three months, most patients have completed all follow-up and can resume most activities.
The two most common discs I place are the Mobi-C and the Simplify cervical discs. Both can be placed at up to two levels. You can learn more about them at:
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Legacy Spine Clinic
24900 SE Stark St, Suite 109
Gresham, OR 97030
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We take self referrals as long as your insurance doesn’t require a referral.
Your doctor can refer you directly and this can be helpful for coordinating imaging close to home.
We see patients teenagers and older.
We can provide second opinions remotely or in person.