May 23, 2024

Artificial Discs – A Revolutionary Spine Surgery Treatment

┬áThese artificial discs are intended to preserve motion in the spine by replacing damaged discs between vertebrae. They promise relief from back pain without sacrificing flexibility and range of motion. Here we discuss in detail about these artificial discs – how they work, benefits over fusion surgery, types available and more.

What are Artificial Discs?

Artificial discs are made of durable materials like metal alloys and plastics that act like shock absorbers between vertebrae. They replicate the jobs of natural discs which act as cushions between bones and allow spinal flexibility. When a disc degenerates due to injury or age, it loses its cushioning ability leading to pain. Artificial discs restore this lost function by replacing damaged discs. Two common types of artificial discs available are – metal on polymer discs and metal on metal discs.

Metal on polymer discs have a metal endplate attached to each vertebrae and a plastic core sandwiched between the metal plates. The plastic core mimics the natural disc’s ability to deform under pressure and cushion the spine. Metal on metal discs have metal endplates with a metal core placed between them. The metal core allows limited rotational motion like the natural disc. Both types work to preserve spinal mobility and relieve back pain caused by damaged discs.

How do Artificial Discs Work?

During the artificial disc replacement surgery, the damaged disc is removed through small incisions. The endplates of the artificial disc are then securely attached to the adjacent vertebrae using screws or other fixation methods. This anchors the disc replacement in place.

The implanted disc acts as a cushion or shock absorber between the vertebrae. During movements or stress on the spine, it compresses to absorb pressure like a natural disc. It also allows limited bending and twisting motions of the spine. This preserved motion prevents adjacent vertebrae from fusing together and becoming rigid. By replacing only the damaged disc, it maintains spinal flexibility and mobility better than fusion surgery.

Benefits over Spinal Fusion Surgery

Spinal fusion surgery involves fusing two or more vertebrae together permanently with bone grafts and metal hardware. While it can stop pain, it eliminates motion between fused vertebrae making the spine less flexible. Some key benefits of artificial disc replacement over fusion surgery include:

– Preservation of Spinal Mobility: Artificial Disc allow continued joint motion preventing adjacent vertebrae from fusing. This maintains a natural range of motion.

– Avoid Adjacent Level Degeneration: Fusion surgery places extra stress on nearby discs speeding up their deterioration. Artificial discs don’t increase loading of nearby joints.

– Less Back/Leg Pain: Preserved motion reduces stress on facet joints and ligaments responsible for back/leg pain in some patients.

– Quicker Recovery: Patients recover faster from disc replacement and have less risk of repeat surgeries compared to fusion patients.

– Improved Longevity: Artificial discs last longer than bone grafts used in fusion and patients avoid additional surgeries due to adjacent segment degeneration.

– Better Quality of Life: Maintained flexibility improves physical activities, work and daily functions compared to stiff spinal segment post fusion.

Types of Artificial Disc Available

Several artificial disc designs by different manufacturers are approved for use in the lumbar (lower) and cervical (neck) regions:

– ProDisc-L (Synthes): One of the earliest and most widely used lumbar disc. Made of metal endplates and a plastic core.

– Mobi-C (LDR) and Bryan (Medtronic): Popular FDA approved cervical disc replacements made of metal or plastic parts.

– Activ-L (Aesculap): Advanced lumbar disc design featuring unique intradiscal bone ingrowth surfaces.

– Maverick (Medtronic): Advanced lumbar disc with inherent stability and range of motion similar to healthy natural disc.

– ProDisc-C (Synthes): Artificial cervical disc used in neck consisting of a ball and socket joint.

The right disc is chosen based on individual anatomy, injury type and surgeon’s preference to provide most natural movement and long term relief from back/neck pain.

Results and Outcomes

Several long term clinical studies, including 10 year data, have found artificial discs as effective as fusion for treating disc degeneration and herniated disc conditions:

– 86-90% patients saw significant pain relief even 10 years post surgery

– Better physical function scores compared to fusion at 5 & 10 years

– Preserved or improved range of motion compared to pre-surgery levels

– Low re-operation rates of 3-6% after 10-15 years

– Better outcomes for multi-level disc replacements than multi-level fusions

However, artificial discs are relatively new compared to established fusion surgery. Longer term data is still being collected regarding durability beyond 15-20 years. Overall, most studies point to artificial discs as a viable alternative to fusion for carefully selected patients.

Artificial disc replacement is a major advancement for treating damaged discs without sacrificing mobility. For suitable patients, it provides long lasting relief from back/neck pain while maintaining a more natural spinal function compared to fusion. As technology improves and evidence grows, artificial discs promise to transform spine surgery outcomes. Wider acceptance among patients and surgeons will further cement their role as preferred intervention for disc degeneration.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it