When to Consider a Cervical Disc Replacement

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Severe and chronic neck pain can affect a patient’s quality of life. Pain in the cervical spine (neck) can develop because of an acute injury, such as one from a car accident, or from a degenerative condition, such as spinal stenosis. Fortunately, surgical advancements such as cervical disc replacement can offer pain relief while preserving joint function.

Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics (CNSO) is based in northern New Jersey and serves patients throughout the area with a team of neurosurgeons, orthopedic spine surgeons, physical therapists, pain management doctors, and other medical professionals offering a wide range of treatments, including cervical disc replacement. Learn more about this procedure.


What Is Cervical Disc Replacement?

The spinal column is divided into three sections: cervical, thoracic, and lumbar. The cervical spine is made up of seven vertebrae that allow the neck to move forward, backward, and turn from side to side. Between each vertebra is an intervertebral disc. These cervical discs act like shock absorbers, cushioning and supporting the vertebrae. Over time, the discs can become damaged or even move out of place as a result of degenerative disc disease. A bulging disc is less likely to cause problems but a herniated disc can lead to nerve pain and muscle weakness, or can even affect urinary and bowel function.

In the past, the only surgical option for treating a damaged disc was to remove it and fuse the vertebrae with a small plate, a procedure called Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF). While ACDF can help relieve pain, fusing the vertebrae at one level of the spine minimally limits the neck’s range of motion but could over time develop adjacent segment conditions or pseudoarthritis.

Cervical disc replacement, on the other hand, is a minimally-invasive spine surgery that replaces the damaged cervical disc with an artificial disc. The treatment preserves the range of motion in the treated joint while reducing or eliminating neck pain.


When Is Cervical Disc Replacement Recommended?

In some cases, patients with chronic neck pain can be treated with conservative care, such as physical therapy and over-the-counter medication. However, surgery may ultimately be recommended in cases where:

  • Severe, persistent neck pain does not improve after treatment with non-surgical therapies
  • Neck pain interferes with daily life or limits a patient’s ability to perform routine activities, such as driving a car
  • Disc degeneration affects surrounding nerves, leading to significant muscle weakness or loss of bodily functions

Cervical disc replacement can offer pain relief from conditions including cervical stenosis and radiculopathy.


What to Expect During the Procedure

Cervical disc replacement surgery can be performed at an ambulatory surgery center or in a hospital. The procedure typically takes less than two hours and is performed under general anesthesia.

To remove the damaged cervical disc, the neurosurgeon or spine surgeon will perform an anterior approach by making a small incision on the front of the patient’s neck to the side of the trachea and esophagus for access to the spinal column.

The surgeon will remove the damaged disc along with any fragments of tissue from the disc that could irritate the spinal cord or nerves. They will then place an artificial disc into the intervertebral space. The implant is made from biosynthetic metal and medical-grade plastic, designed to last for years without any need for replacement.

Most patients can go home the same day or the day after the procedure. Often, the patient will need to wear a cervical collar to help immobilize the neck for a week or two. Oral pain medications may be given for any postoperative pain or discomfort. The patient will have a series of follow-up visits to ensure proper recovery. The timeframe for returning to work will depend on the patient’s occupation; more physically demanding jobs may require a longer recovery period.


CNSO’s Approach to Patient Care

The experienced medical team at CNSO takes a conservative approach to spine and neck treatment. Offering comprehensive care for brain, spine, and nerve conditions, CNSO offers structured physical therapy, rehabilitation medicine, and opiate-free pain management, including injection treatments. The staff at CNSO includes:

  • Neurosurgeons and orthopedic spine surgeons
  • Interventional pain management physicians and physiatrists
  • Certified physical therapists and rehabilitation specialists

Working in coordination from the first consultation, the medical team designs a personalized treatment plan for each patient to ensure the best possible health outcomes.


Make an Appointment at CNSO Today

As New Jersey’s most comprehensive spine care center, CNSO is uniquely equipped to treat patients with any and all cervical spine issues. With multiple convenient locations, CNSO serves patients in northern New Jersey, including Bergen, Passaic, Essex, Morris, and Hudson counties. The board-certified providers at CNSO also offer telemedicine appointments to evaluate and diagnose patients who are not able to come into the office or need an appointment on short notice. For more information about cervical disc replacement or to schedule an appointment, contact the office today.

Centers for Neurosurgery Spine & Orthopedics