Disc Replacement Overtakes Spinal Fusion as the Most Effective Procedure
The latest research shows that disc replacement surgery is now poised to take over as the primary solution for patients seeking to relieve spinal pain from degenerative disc disease and other causes in the neck.
For more than 70 years, anterior cervical discectomy and fusion, or simply spinal fusion, has been the gold standard for treating patients who experience pain and mobility problems from degenerative disc disease. But the cure always had its downside. As you fuse the spine, you reduce natural movement. The patient comes away from fusion surgery without the original complaint of pain, but also a future of reduced physical activity. Spinal fusion also creates additional stresses on other parts of the ‘unfused’ spine which often leads to further disc degeneration and more surgery.
For many years, physicians have dreamed of disc replacement surgery as a means to solve the many problems caused by spinal fusion. Instead of fusing vertebrae (preventing movement), why not replace the discs that were causing the problem in the first place?
Spinal Fusion often causes more long term problems. Since we’re fusing vertebrae together, this puts a lot of pressure on nearby non-fused vertebrae. The added pressure and stress tends to accelerate additional degeneration discs. The result, once you get spinal fusion, there’s a high likelihood that you’ll need additional fusion for other parts of your spine.
Analysis of 19 clinical trials involving 4,516 patient cases showed that disc replacement surgery resulted in better functional outcomes, fewer adverse effects, and fewer surgical revisions and reoperations than spinal fusion.
Disc replacement patients also tend to recover more quickly than fusion patients after surgery. And of course, disc replacement patient have a substantially better range of motion and better long-term outcome than fusion patients.
A flurry of positive data for disc replacement surgery shows that the procedure is safer, more efficient, can keep patients out of the hospital, and costs less over time than spinal fusion.
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