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Artificial Disc Replacements

You may have heard about hip, knee, shoulder, and elbow replacements, but did you know that significant advancements have also been made in artificial disc replacement surgery for treating neck and spine conditions?

The cervical spine has discs between each bone that provide cushioning (like shock absorbers) in the neck and back. The discs and bones in a healthy neck allow bending from side-to-side and front-to-back, and turning left-to-right. However, over time when a disc degenerates it can have tears or defects that lose water, which cause it to become thinner and provide less padding to absorb movement. Degenerated discs can also bulge (herniate) and pinch the spinal cord or nerves, which causes loss of feeling, weakness, pain, or tingling down the arms and hands.

Before artificial discs were available, patients would receive a spinal fusion, which involves removing painful discs and fusing two or more vertebrae together. Today, artificial disc replacement surgery replaces the painful disc with an artificial disc to enable the neck and spine to function as intended. Artificial discs are structurally similar to natural discs, which serve as shock absorbers in the neck and back. Artificial discs placed inside the disc space restores height, removes pressure on the pinched nerves, and maintains motion. By maintaining motion, the artificial disc decreases the rate at which the other levels of degenerate, which is a known complication of fusions.

Benefits of Disc Replacement Surgery

Hospital costs for artificial disc replacement are nearly 50 percent lower than spinal fusions, and four years out from surgery, artificial disc patients are four times less likely to need additional surgery than those who had fusion operations, according to two published studies in the SAS Journal of the International Society for the Advancement of Spine Surgery and the Society for Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery.

When compared to conventional spinal fusion surgery, artificial disc replacement surgery in the neck or back also provides many other benefits:

  • Bone grafting is not required, which can cause pain
  • Faster recovery, so patients can return to activities sooner
  • Maintains range of motion for a more natural feeling in the neck or back
  • Prevents degeneration of discs above and/or below the affected disc(s)
  • Requires a less invasive surgery, resulting in lower surgical risks, less pain and less blood loss

“By using the artificial disc replacement surgical technique as opposed to traditional fusion methods, patients have a better chance to resume a more active lifestyle with a reduction in future complications and follow-up operations.” Dr. Robert Johnson, Orthopedic Spine Surgeon.

Do You Qualify for Artificial Disc Replacement?

  • Do you have arm pain and/or neurological symptoms such as numbness or weakness with or without neck pain?
  • Have you tried at least 6 weeks of nonsurgical care such as physical therapy or medication, or are your symptoms getting progressively worse?
  • Has a physician indicated that you might need surgery at one or two levels in your cervical spine?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you will want to talk to Dr. Robert Johnson, fellowship-trained orthopedic spine surgeon with the Idaho Back Institute with Bingham Healthcare.

Dr. Johnson sees patients in Idaho Falls, Blackfoot, and Pocatello. If you’re suffering from chronic neck or back pain, you can schedule an appointment with Dr. Johnson at: (208) 235-2277. Se habla Español

In addition, we have acquired the latest in spine technology, the new Mazor X system. We are now one of the first locations in the United States to use this innovative technology for minimally-invasive, robot-guided spinal surgery. Dr. Johnson was heavily involved in the development and testing of the Mazor X, and he is one of only five physicians in the world that is trained on this equipment at this time.

Learn about the many benefits of the Mazor X for spine surgery.


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