Cervical Disc Replacement Surgery

Cervical disc replacement surgery, a type of artificial disc replacement, can solve several causes of neck and upper back pain. When neck, back, or arm pain is caused by degenerating vertebral discs or pinched nerves in the upper spine, cervical disc replacement pain can provide profound relief. These conditions often cause pain, numbness, tingling, or muscle weakness that extends down the arm. If you have these symptoms, or have been diagnosed with cervical disc degeneration, it is worth considering cervical artificial disc replacement.


What Is Cervical Artificial Disc Replacement?


A cervical artificial disc replacement is a spine surgery procedure to remove a damaged vertebral disc and replace it with an artificial “joint.” There are many different types of artificial disc replacement. An artificial cervical disc is made of metals, and/or hard and soft plastics or polymers. Because a damaged cervical disc is often the source of pain, numbness, or tingling, once it is removed, pain is relieved. The artificial disc that replaces the natural disc, acts in much the same way as a natural vertebral disc. Once the patient heals after cervical artificial disc replacement surgery, the spine can rotate, bend, and flex without causing pain.


What Problems Can Cervical ADR Solve?

  • Cervical radiculopathy at one level
  • Cervical radiculopathy at two levels
  • Degenerative cervical disc disease (mild to moderate)
  • Cervical myelopathy at one level
  • Cervical myelopathy at two levels
  • Foraminal osteophytes (“bone spurs”) in the cervical spine
  • Cervical disc herniation

Learn more about the pros and cons of cervical disc replacement surgery.


Cervical Disc Replacement Surgery Procedure

Your spine surgeon will make a 1- to 2-inch incision in the front of your neck. The damaged disc will be removed from the front, i.e., you will be lying face up during surgery. If there are any irregular areas of bone, your spine surgeon will smooth these areas, especially if they are pressing on nerves or the spinal cord. Once the area is prepared, the artificial cervical disc is placed between the vertebral bones above and below. After the spine surgeon is satisfied with the artificial disc’s placement position, the surgical wound is closed. In most cases, the procedure lasts 1-2 hours.

Learn more about cervical disc replacement surgery.



The two main surgical treatments for neck pain are cervical artificial disc replacement and anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. Both can relieve neck and upper back pain, but only artificial disc replacement preserves spinal motion in the neck. In anterior cervical discectomy and fusion, the damaged disc is removed, and the two vertebral bones are fused together. The spine is quite stable once the bones heal, but the spine can no longer bend, flex, or rotate at the fused area. Hear from spine surgeon Dr. Lanman on the differences between CADR VS ACDF. Dr Lanman is a top cervical disc replacement surgeon that has been apart of several studies measuring artificial disc replacement success.



In a medical study comparing cervical artificial disc replacement vs cervical fusion, cervical artificial disc replacement had statistically superior outcomes in every outcome measured including:

  • Neck pain
  • Arm pain
  • Neurologic success
  • Overall outcomes

Artificial disc replacement should be considered the first line of defense if you suffer from cervical disc disease.


Should I Get Cervical ADR or ACDF?

Simply put, if you are a candidate for cervical artificial disc replacement, then you should strongly consider it. As the motion-sparing procedure of the two, it is the better option for long-term mobility and function. Unfortunately, though, not everyone is a candidate for cervical artificial disc replacement. People who do not qualify for artificial disc replacement are left with only one surgical option: anterior cervical discectomy and fusion.


Cervical ADR Pros

  • Preserve motion in the cervical spine
  • No risk of pseudoarthrosis (i.e. spine does not fuse properly)
  • Faster healing
  • Faster return to everyday activities
  • Lower rate of reoperation (i.e. repeat surgery) than fusion



  • Requires less surgical skill
  • Can be used in people with ankylosing spondylitis, bone disease, or facet joint disease while replacement cannot



Like anterior cervical discectomy and fusion, cervical artificial disc replacement surgery is considered safe.



Multiple clinical trials have shown that cervical artificial disk replacement surgery has about the same overall complication rate as anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. The usual risks of surgery and the risk associated with spine surgery are about the same in both procedures. In fusion, there is a small risk the bones will not fuse. With respect to the safety of cervical disc replacement, there is a small risk the device may not function properly if it’s poorly positioned by the surgeon. Device failure is extremely unusual as newer artificial disc designs have become available.


Recovering from Cervical Disc Replacement Surgery

Recovery after cervical disc replacement surgery usually takes 3-5 weeks. Initially you may experience some discomfort around the incision site, and perhaps some minor trouble with a raspy or hoarse voice or difficulty swallowing. While you may be able to go home the day of surgery, it is also possible you will spend a night in the hospital or surgery center. During that time, healthcare providers will help you manage your discomfort and monitor your eating, drinking, and physical activities. Within a week or two you will be able to return to light duty. After two to three months you will probably be able to return to all of your previous activities, and begin enjoying life after cervical disc replacement.


Frequently Asked Questions

Will I be able to sleep after cervical disc replacement surgery?

Yes, you can expect to improve the quality of sleep after cervical disc replacement surgery. While there may be some initial discomfort, as your body heals and adjusts, your sleep should gradually get better, helping you get back to a restful and comfortable night’s sleep. It’s important to follow your surgeon’s recommendations and practice good sleep hygiene to facilitate the recovery process.

What are some reasons to choose a cervical disc replacement surgery?

Cervical disc replacement has benefits like preserving spinal motion and reducing the risk of adjacent segment degeneration compared to fusion surgery. However, it carries potential risks, including device-related complications, the need for careful patient selection, and limited long-term data. Patients should discuss these pros and cons with their healthcare provider before considering the procedure. You can read more about the pros and cons of cervical disc replacement in our blog as well!