Signs of Complications After an Artificial Disc Replacement

Artificial disc replacement surgery is typically a safe, effective way to relieve pain and improve function in people with severe disc disease. However, as with any surgery, there is a risk of complications. Understanding the warning signs early on can help you get the treatment you need to avoid serious problems.

In this guide, we’ll discuss the most common complications after artificial disc replacement surgery and their warning signs. We’ll also offer tips on reducing your risk of developing these complications and what to do if you experience them.

Common Complications Associated with Disc Replacement Surgery

Though typically safe and effective, there is a small risk of complications associated with artificial disc replacement surgery. These complications can range from mild and easily treatable to severe and potentially life-threatening.

Complications can vary, depending on the location of the affected disc. For example, complications are more common after cervical (neck) disc replacement surgery than after lumbar (lower back) disc replacement surgery. This is because there are more bones, nerves, and blood vessels in the neck than in the lower back.

The most common complications associated with artificial disc replacement surgery include the following:

Dislocation

One of the most common complications associated with this surgery is the dislocation of the artificial disc. This can occur if the disc slips out of place or if the bones surrounding the disc fail to fuse properly. Dislocation may cause pain, numbness, or weakness in the affected area.

Infection

Infection is another potential complication of artificial disc replacement surgery. This can occur if bacteria enter the surgical site during the procedure. Symptoms of infection include fever, redness, and drainage from the incision site.

Nerve Damage

Artificial disc replacement surgery carries a risk of nerve damage. This can occur if the surgeon damages the nerves surrounding the affected disc during the procedure. Symptoms of nerve damage include numbness, tingling, and weakness in the affected area.

Blood Vessel Damage

This surgery also risks damaging the blood vessels surrounding the affected disc. This can cause bleeding or blood clots. Symptoms of blood vessel damage include pain, swelling, and bruising in the affected area.

Bone Loss

Occasionally, artificial disc replacement surgery can lead to bone loss around the affected disc. This can weaken the bones and make them more likely to break. Symptoms of bone loss include pain, swelling, and bone fragility.

Heterotopic Ossification

Heterotopic ossification (HO) is where bone tissue forms outside the standard skeletal structure. This can occur after surgery and is often painful. Symptoms of HO include swelling, bruising, and pain in the affected area.

Dural Tear

A dural tear is a tear in the membrane that surrounds the spinal cord and spinal nerves. Dural tears are relatively rare but can be serious. Symptoms of a dural tear include severe pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the legs.

While the above complications are the most common ones associated with artificial disc replacement surgery, it is certainly not an exhaustive list. Be sure to discuss potential complications with your surgeon before having the procedure.

Warning Signs of Complications After Disc Replacement Surgery

Awareness of the warning signs of complications is essential after artificial disc replacement surgery. This way, you can seek treatment early on and avoid serious problems. If you’re unsure whether something you are experiencing is normal, always err on the side of caution and contact your surgeon.

The most common warning signs of complications include:

Persistent Pain

It is understandable to be sore and have limited mobility for a few days after artificial disc replacement surgery. However, if the pain persists or worsens, this could be a sign of a complication.

Numbness, Weakness, or Tingling

As your bones, nerves, and blood vessels heal, you may experience numbness, weakness, or tingling around the incision site or nearby localized areas. However, if these symptoms persist or get worse, it could be a sign of nerve damage.

Fever

A fever is often a sign of infection. In comparison, an individual’s average body temperature may be slightly above the normal range while healing, a frenzy of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher is cause for concern. Be sure to routinely monitor your temperature for the first few weeks after surgery.

Redness, Drainage, or Warmth around the Incision Site

When our skin experiences damage, our body’s defense systems send a lot of extra blood to the area to help heal. This can cause the skin around a wound to appear red and warm. However, if the redness and warmth persist or you see drainage or pus from the incision site, it could be a sign of infection.

Swelling, Bruising, or Bleeding

Some swelling and bruising are to be expected after surgery. However, if the swelling and bruising persist and spread, or if you see any unexpected bleeding, it could be a sign of blood vessel damage.

Difficulty Speaking, Swallowing, or Breathing

If you experience difficulty speaking, swallowing, or breathing after surgery, it could be a sign of a severe complication. This is especially true if the problem is accompanied by chest pain, confusion, or paralysis. In this case, emergency medical help should be sought immediately.

Contact your surgeon immediately if you experience any of the above warning signs after artificial disc replacement surgery. Early treatment is often crucial in preventing severe complications.

How to Help Minimize the Risk of Complications After Artificial Disc Replacement

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. You can do several things to help avoid complications after artificial disc replacement surgery. First and foremost, be sure to follow your surgeon’s instructions. This includes taking medications as prescribed and attending all follow-up appointments.

Secondly, quit smoking. Smoking slows the healing process and puts you at a higher risk for infection and other complications. If you can’t stop completely, do your best to cut back as much as possible.

Finally, eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly. A healthy body is better equipped to heal from surgery and avoid complications. Eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly will also help you maintain a healthy weight, which is essential for preventing additional stress on your spine.

Get Help From the Experienced Surgeons at Orthopedic & Laser Spine Surgery in Florida

Complications after surgery are not only a risk to the individual undergoing surgery but can also be costly and time-consuming. It is essential to be aware of the common warning signs of complications and know what to do if any arise.

At Orthopedic & Laser Spine Surgery in Florida, our team of experienced surgeons is here to help you through every step of your artificial disc replacement surgery. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact us or schedule an appointment by calling us at (855) 853-6542 today.