If your doctor recommends artificial disc replacement surgery, he will determine if you are a good candidate for this treatment. He may recommend having an MRI scan and X-ray before the operation. Your surgeon will also perform tests on the nerves and muscles around the area where the disc was removed. If all these tests show no problems, then the surgery can begin. Here are some things that you should know before scheduling the operation.

What is Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery?

Artificial discs are designed to replace the damaged disc and allow a full range of motion for your back. These implants are made of plastic, titanium, ceramic, carbon fiber, or other materials. This surgery is usually performed on people who suffer from severe back or neck pain due to damaged discs.

Benefits of Disc Replacement Surgery

Artificial discs help reduce back pain caused by disc problems. This type of surgery is often recommended for those who suffer from chronic neck pain. Patients who undergo cervical disc replacement surgery report less pain after the operation. Disc replacement surgery may also require a shorter recovery than other treatment options.

Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery vs. Fusion

Generally, Artificial Disc Replacement can be a better option than ACDF for many patients because it doesn’t require fusion. Both options provide relief from symptoms of spinal stenosis. Artificial discs last much longer than fusion surgeries. They reduce pain, improve function, and allow patients to retain the natural movement of the spine. Spinal fusions cause stiffness and loss of mobility.

However, there are risks associated with ACDF, including loss of function, infection, and neurologic injury. While some risks are associated with artificial discs, selecting an experienced spine surgeon who performs many procedures like yours will minimize those risks. Your doctor will recommend surgery based on how severe your symptoms are.


Artificial discs provide relief for people suffering from severe lower back pain. This surgery involves replacing the damaged vertebrae with prosthetic devices made of plastic or metal. People who have had multiple surgeries are often considered for this type. Your doctor will answer all your questions about the procedure.


Artificial discs are designed to replace damaged or diseased intervertebral discs. Disc replacement surgery is typically done under general anesthesia and requires two or more days in the hospital. There are currently several FDA-approved devices available for treating lumbar degenerative disc disease.


There are risks involved with the surgery, including bleeding, nerve damage, infection, sensitivity to the material, breakage, and dislocation. Your doctor will tell you about all the possible complications during your consultation. For most patients, the pros outweigh the risk of complications.


Recovery usually lasts about six to eight weeks after disc replacement. A physical therapist will help you recover from your surgery. After your procedure, you may need to wear compression garments or bandages until healed.

Problems with Artificial Disc Replacement

Artificial disc replacement is a surgical procedure in which an orthopedic surgeon removes a diseased disc in the neck and replaces it with an artificial device. Until the recent popularity and success of artificial disc replacement, fusing vertebrae during spinal fusion surgery was the only surgical option for patients with neck and back pain. Disc replacement remains an attractive alternative to spinal fusion surgery because patients retain a better range of motion after the procedure than spinal fusion.

All surgeries have an inherent risk, some more than others. Patients face threats when they are “put under” for surgery and after the procedure. Fortunately, artificial disk replacement has a meager complication rate. However, if you are considering artificial disc replacement surgery, you should know about potential problems with the procedure.


Sometimes the area around the artificial disc gets infected after a disc replacement surgery. Patients need to keep their surgical wounds clean and dry, take care of them, and give the area time to heal, so they don’t have any issues.

If a surgical wound gets infected, a patient might need to take antibiotics to minimize or eliminate the infection. If a condition worsens or does not disappear, a patient might need additional surgery to remove the artificial disc.

Allergic Reaction to the Disc

Your doctor will discuss your medical history before your artificial disc replacement. If you have a known allergy to the materials that make up the artificial disc, it’s doubtful you will be approved for the surgery. However, patients might not have a known allergy and find out they are allergic to the artificial disc after the procedure when they start experiencing symptoms like pain, swelling, and a rash.

Artificial discs can be made of various metals and plastics, including:

  • Chromium
  • Cobalt
  • Hydroxyapatite
  • Molybdenum
  • Polyethylene (plastic)
  • Titanium
  • Tantalum

Patients allergic to an artificial disc may have to undergo surgery to remove the disc.

Disc Migration

Although it rarely occurs, sometimes an artificial disc migrates after it’s implanted. Dislocation or the dislodging of the disc creates significant problems in the spine that often includes pain. Migration and dislocation typically occur over time. It’s typically a result of the nearby vertebrae weakening or the failure of the artificial disc.

Lack of Custom Sizes

Artificial disc manufacturers create various sizes of discs for each part of the spine that works with most people. However, they do not customize artificial discs for each surgical candidate. Typically, surgeons order an MRI before surgery to determine the right size for a patient. However, once surgeons open someone up, they sometimes find the device is not the best fit. If a disc is too large or too small for a patient, the surgeon might have to perform a spinal fusion in the middle of surgery instead of a disc replacement.

Complications from a Rigid Spine

The most significant benefit of artificial disc replacement, compared to spinal fusion, is the mobility and range of motion patients get after they have healed. However, someone with a stiff or rigid spine might see a moderate increase in their field of motion. Bending, flexing, and twisting might still take time. One artificial disc cannot correct issues that impact the entire spine. This means patients with a stiff spine might still be unable to return to regular activity after an artificial disc replacement.

Avoiding Complications from Artificial Disc Replacement

You can avoid complications related to general surgery and those specific to artificial disc replacement by preparing before surgery and following your surgeon’s orders for recovery. It would be best to share any adverse reactions you’ve had to anesthesia with your doctor before surgery. Additionally, you must pause any blood-thinning medications. Finally, smokers must quit smoking before their surgery to reduce the risk of blood clots and lung-related surgical complications.

After your artificial disc replacement surgery, you must take any medications your surgeon prescribed precisely as directed. This is especially crucial for pain medication and antibiotics. Get the recommended amount of activity after your surgery to reduce the risk of blood clots. Exercise helps avoid dangerous, sometimes deadly, blood clots and helps patients regain physical function and build muscle after surgery.

Learn More About Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery

Disc surgery is generally considered safe and effective. It is usually recommended for patients who have had multiple problems with nonsurgical treatment options. However, it would help if you discussed any concerns that you might have with your doctor. Contact us today if you want to learn more about artificial disc replacement surgery. Call Orthopedic Laser Spine Surgery at (855) 853-6542 or fill out our online form.

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