When non-surgical treatments such as medication, therapy and exercise fail to provide any relief from severe lower back pain or neck pain, spinal surgery might be the best option for a patient. Artificial disc replacement (also known as total disc replacement or spinal arthroplasty) and spinal fusion are two types of surgical procedures spine surgeons utilize to help treat spinal conditions. Though both procedures are used to help treat back and neck conditions, they are very different procedures. The physicians who participate in the Texas Health Spine and Orthopedic referral line perform various types of spine surgery including artificial disc replacement surgery and spinal fusion surgery. In this blog post, we discuss how these two procedures differ from each other. Read on.

The Procedure

Artificial Disc Replacement
When a patient undergoes lumbar artificial disc replacement, an incision is made in the abdomen allowing access to the front of the spine. In cervical disc replacement an incision is made in the front of the neck. The diseased disc is then removed and replaced with an artificial one, much like hip replacement or knee replacement. Total disc replacement is a minimally invasive surgical procedures and helps preserve motion in the spine and minimizes stress placed on the spinal segments above and below the surgery site. Artificial disc replacement can also result is less blood loss, less muscle damage and a faster recovery than traditional open back surgery.

Related Read: All You Need to Know About Scoliosis Spinal Fusion Surgery

Spinal Fusion
There are several types of approaches surgeons use when performing spinal fusion surgery. For this blog we will discuss fusion performed with an anterior (from the front) approach. With the anterior approach an incision is made in the abdomen (for lumbar) or front for the neck (for cervical) allowing access to the spine. After the spinal is exposed the disease disc is removed and a bone material is implanted into the empty disc space. The material could be the patient’s own bone, a metal or plastic device or a donor’s bone. Besides these, the doctor may use other materials such as stem cells, autograft or synthetic protein to fill the structural component in the disc space and encourage bone growth so a fusion can occur. The surgeon can then utilize screws or plates to secure the adjacent vertebrae to each other. This stabilizes the spinal segment and removes any motion. Anterior cervical and lumbar fusion surgery provides stability to the spinal structure and eliminates the movement in that specific area of the spine.

Which Procedure is Better?

Patient selection is a critical component of successful spinal surgery.  Not all patients who are candidates for fusion qualify for disc replacement surgery. In most cases patients who had artificial disc replacement do equally or a little bit better than those who underwent fusion surgery. Those who underwent total disc replacement surgery are, however, able to preserve their motion, recover faster and get back to normal life sooner. Artificial disc is not an option for patients with arthritis or spinal instability. If you want to learn more about which surgical treatment is right for your back or neck pain problem, contact Texas Health Spine & Orthopedic Center in Plano. We will connect you with experienced surgeons to begin your road to recovery. To book an appointment, call us at 1-888-608-4762 or fill out the form.

Physicians who are members of the referral program practice independently and are not employees or agents of Texas Health Spine and Orthopedic.