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What is Disc Arthroplasty?

Arthroplasty is a surgical procedure to restore joint function by replacing a damaged joint with an artificial joint called a prosthesis. It may be performed to replace the joints in the neck region of the spine. The vertebral bones of the spine are separated by soft discs, which can undergo injury or degeneration. Disc arthroplasty involves replacing these discs with artificial prostheses and is also called cervical disc replacement surgery.

The joints of the cervical spine may degenerate due to aging, infection, arthritis or the presence of tumors. Degeneration can lead to the collapse of an intervertebral disc or herniation (slipped disc), narrowing of the spinal canal (stenosis) or loss of cartilage in the joints (osteoarthritis). This can cause loss of space between the cervical vertebrae and compression of the spinal cord or spinal nerves leading to pain, loss of sensation, reduced movement, and disability.

Symptoms of Cervical Degeneration

  • Degeneration of the cervical spine may cause the following symptoms:
  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Weakness and pain in the arms, hands, and legs
  • A Headache
  • Tingling sensations in the arm

Indications for Disc Arthroplasty

Disc arthroplasty may be recommended if you are suffering from degenerative spine disease that does not respond to medications and other conservative treatments.

Preparation for Cervical Arthroplasty

Prior to surgery, you will be advised on:

  • Abstaining from smoking
  • Medication intake
  • Possible allergic reactions
  • When to stop eating and drinking before surgery

Disc Arthroplasty Procedure

During the procedure, you will receive fluids and necessary medicines through an intravenous (IV) line. You may be supplemented with a breathing tube.

  • General anesthesia is administered
  • The area around the incision is cleaned
  • A 1-2-inch incision is made in the front or side of your neck
  • Your surgeon will carefully expose the vertebral bones without damaging important nerves
  • The damaged cartilage disc is carefully removed
  • An artificial disc is placed in the space created
  • The incision is closed with sutures and covered with an external dressing
  • A neck collar (soft or rigid) is applied for support

Recovery After Disc Arthroplasty

Recovery from cervical arthroplasty may take several weeks. You must stay in the hospital at least one or two days.

  • Intravenous fluids are continued
  • You may be given pain medications if pain persists
  • You are advised to walk around and drink fluids 
  • Your sutures are removed after a few days

Your surgeon will instruct you to participate in a physical therapy program after a few weeks. Most patients recover in about 4 to 6 weeks.

Risks of Cervical Arthroplasty

As with any surgical procedure, cervical arthroplasty may be associated with certain risks which include: 

  • Bleeding and infection
  • Trouble breathing and swallowing
  • Change in voice and speech
  • Leakage of spinal fluid
  • Loosening of the prosthesis
  • Persistent post-surgery symptoms
  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
  • North American Spine Society
  • Cobb County Medical Society
  • Georgia Orthopaedic Society
  • Piedmont Clinic