When a disc in the spine has been damaged, some uncomfortable symptoms may occur. This is because spinal discs are biological cushions that rest in between each vertebra in the spine. Discs create space through which nerves and vessels can travel. They also provide the shock absorption that is necessary to inhibit bone-on-bone contact. Because spinal discs carry such weight, both literally and figuratively, they hold an important place in health and wellness. Damage to a disc could mean persistent pain. Persistent pain calls for appropriate medical intervention, and that may involve disc replacement.
Cervical disc replacement is a spinal procedure performed to reinstate adequate buffering in an affected segment of the spine. There are 7 segments in the cervical spine, housing bones, nerves, discs, and muscles, all of which support the spinal cord. The segments of the cervical spine in which damage most often occurs are C4 and C5, C5 and C6, and C6 and C7. Damage may include herniation of the disc in between bones, or bone spurs resulting from lack of buffering. In either situation, the pressure on nerves needs to be alleviated for symptoms to cease.
The Disc Replacement Procedure
Cervical disc replacement is performed at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. After general anesthesia has been administered, a small incision is made in the area of the affected spinal segment. Gaining access to the damaged disc, the surgeon removes some or all of the soft, inner material. Space is created between the two vertebrae that surround the damaged disc to reach appropriate height or distance between those bones. An artificial disc is then inserted into this space with the help of x-ray imaging to guide placement.
There are alternatives to disc replacement surgery that may be more suitable for some patients. The intent of this procedure is to recreate the space and natural shock absorption that is needed for comfort without inhibiting range of motion in the neck.
Spinal surgery is a last resort, but one that patients should understand as an option for treating chronic pain. For more information on our services, call 212-606-1004.