Types of total discreplacement surgery

Total disc replacement surgery is done to relieve pain caused by a degenerated disc

If you’re planning to have total disc replacement surgery, make sure your surgeon has plenty of experience with this type of surgery. Disc replacement is an alternative to spinal fusion.

Cervical (neck) disc replacement

To replace an intervertebral cervical disc, your surgeon makes a 3-4 cm incision in the front of your neck to access your cervical spine. They’ll then remove the diseased disc and smooth off the surfaces of the vertebrae. Metal plates are inserted and screwed into each of the vertebrae, then your surgeon wedges a polymer core in between them to take the place of the disc. The metal plates eventually bond with your vertebrae.

Lumbar (lower back) disc replacement

To replace an intervertebral lumbar disc, your surgeon makes a 7-10 cm incision in your abdomen, near your belly button. They’ll moves aside your intestines to access your spine, being careful not to damage them or any veins and arteries in the area. A vascular surgeon or a general surgeon might be involved to look after this aspect of the surgery. After removing the diseased disc, your surgeon smooths off the surfaces of the vertebrae. Metal plates are inserted and screwed into each vertebra, then your surgeon wedges a polymer core in between them to take the place of the disc. The metal plates eventually bond with your vertebrae.

Lateral total lumbar disc replacement

This is a new type of disc replacement surgery where the lumbar spine is accessed from the back, instead of through the abdomen. It’s not suitable for replacing the discs between L5 and S1 (lower lumbar), and currently only a few surgeons in Australia perform the procedure. Without having to go in through the abdomen, the risks of abdominal damage should be reduced. Hospital stay and recovery time may also be shorter. So far there’s no long-term data about its effectiveness or safety.

Hybrid surgery

If you have problems with two adjoining discs, your surgeon may recommend hybrid surgery where one disc is replaced and the one next to it is fused.

 

Results vs risks of the procedure

The benefits and risks of disc replacement surgery.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

Information is provided by HCF in good faith for the convenience of members. It is not an endorsement or recommendation of any form of treatment nor is it a substitute for medical advice, and you should rely on the advice of your treating doctors in relation to all matters concerning your health. Every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, however HCF takes no responsibility for any injury, loss, damage or other consequences of the use of this information.