Healthy spinal discs provide a cushion and a joint between the adjacent vertebrae. When discs deteriorate, the space between the vertebrae narrows, compressing and pinching nearby nerves.
To relieve the pain and discomfort caused by the compression, a surgeon can remove and replace the collapsed or herniated disc with an artificial disc that mimics a healthy disc — providing both a cushion and a joint. The replacement and rebuilding of the joint with an artificial disc is called cervical disc arthroplasty or cervical artificial disc replacement.
Cervical artificial disc replacement is a type of joint replacement procedure. An artificial disc is placed between two adjacent cervical vertebrae to replace a diseased cervical disc. It is designed to maintain the distance between two adjacent cervical vertebrae.
Implanting an artificial disc in the neck is serious surgery. A cervical disc is inserted very close to important nerves and blood vessels. A doctor will be careful to find and protect these nerves and blood vessels, but there is a risk of damage to nerves or blood vessels during the surgery. A small cut to a blood vessel can cause dangerous bleeding (haemorrhage) or even death. Damage to a nerve can cause long-term loss of movement (paralysis) or feeling.
It is important to discuss the potential risks, complications, and benefits of a cervical disc replacement with a doctor prior to receiving treatment.
During cervical artificial disc replacement surgery, a person will lie on their back on an operating table and will be put into a deep sleep (general anaesthesia). Once the patient is asleep, the neck area will be washed and a clean (sterile) sheet will be taped around the neck. A cut (incision) about an inch long will be made in the front of the neck and the doctor will move the structures in the neck to the side so he or she can see the spine. The doctor will surgically remove the damaged or diseased disc and insert an artificial disc into the disc space. The muscle and skin incisions will be sewn together and then the patient will be moved to the recovery room.
Cervical disc replacement surgery is major surgery requiring a hospital stay. As with any major surgery, the patient should expect some discomfort and a period of rehabilitation. The doctor will outline a post-surgery recovery plan to increase the chances of a successful outcome.