When Should I Consider Disc Replacement Surgery?

Jan 02, 2024
When Should I Consider Disc Replacement Surgery?
You’ve heard of knee and hip replacements, but technology now makes it possible to replace damaged discs in your spine, too. Here’s when you might consider this surgery to relieve pain and restore function.

More than 65 million people suffer with low back pain every year, and 20%-50% of people experience severe neck pain annually. Disc replacement surgery may be an answer for some of these patients. How can you know if you’ll benefit? 

Disc replacement is a major surgical procedure that requires a hospital stay, so you want to be sure this is the right step in your quest for improved back health. At Alabama Neurological Surgery & Spine, the team may recommend that you consider the surgery if you have severe lumbar (low back) or cervical (neck) pain caused by degenerative disc disease or a herniated disc and if other therapies have failed to bring relief.

About your discs

Intervertebral discs are important parts of the spine, acting as shock absorbers between vertebrae (spinal bones). Over time, these discs can degenerate, leading to conditions such as herniated discs or degenerative disc disease. 

Disc replacement surgery addresses these issues by replacing a damaged disc with an artificial one. Through the surgery, we restore function and alleviate pain. 

Candidates for disc replacement surgery

We may recommend disc replacement surgery if:

  • Your back pain mostly comes from only one or two disks in your lower spine or your neck
  • You’re not excessively overweight
  • You haven’t previously had spinal surgery
  • You have no significant joint disease or compression on the nerves of your spine

We don’t usually recommend disc replacement surgery if you have scoliosis, spondylolisthesis, or spinal stenosis

Disc replacement versus other surgical options

Unlike traditional spinal fusion, disc replacement surgery helps preserve the natural range of motion in your spine. This can contribute to improved flexibility and reduced stress on nearby discs.

Because you avoid this additional stress, disc replacement surgery can deter damage to other parts of your spine. Degeneration of other parts of your back are a potential complication of alternative surgeries, like spinal fusion procedures.

Other factors weigh into your decision to have disc replacement surgery

If you experience persistent and debilitating pain that doesn't respond to conservative treatments such as physical therapy, medications, or injections, disc replacement surgery may be a consideration. Pain that significantly affects your daily life and limits your mobility is a key indicator.

Disc replacement surgery isn’t the first line of treatment. We may recommend it when conservative treatments have failed to provide adequate relief. If you've exhausted nonsurgical options without experiencing significant improvement, it may be time to explore this more advanced intervention.

Before disc replacement surgery

Our spine specialists conduct a thorough evaluation of your case before recommending disc replacement surgery. This includes a comprehensive review of your medical history, imaging studies, and a discussion about your symptoms and treatment goals.

We consider factors like age, overall health, and the specific characteristics of your spinal condition when determining your candidacy. Our practice favors a collaborative approach that ensures you have a clear understanding of the benefits, risks, and expected outcomes of disc replacement surgery.

Disc replacement surgery is a significant decision that requires careful consideration and expert guidance. Call today or use our online request tool to book an appointment at Alabama Neurological Surgery & Spine to find out more about whether the surgery or other treatments can help you. Let’s work together to manage your spine health.