Cervical disc replacement is the process of removing worn-out or damaged spinal discs from the cervical spine. This is part of the spine that forms your neck area and protects your spinal cord. Disc replacement is an advanced form of treatment and an alternative to spinal fusion. It allows patients to once again live without pain while also regaining their mobility.
Dr. Todd H. Lanman is a leading spinal surgeon performing artificial disc replacement in Beverly Hills for more than 30 years, working with A-list film celebrities, C-Suite executives, and patients from all backgrounds. Over the years, he has become an expert in cervical disc replacement and is frequently sought out by other doctors looking for his expertise. Learn more about cervical disc replacement surgery and how Dr. Lanman cares for his patients throughout the diagnostic, surgery and recovery process.
The goal of cervical disc replacement is to treat a condition called Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD). When you have DDD, the discs in your spine either wear out or break, leaving you in pain. Your discs can wear out throughout your spine, both in the neck area (cervical) and in your lower back (lumbar region).
Reasons why spinal discs wear out or break
Some people are more genetically prone to DDD and may notice back pain as they start to get older. Other people develop DDD because of poor posture or from years of physical strain. Genetics, age, and lifestyle factors are the biggest causes of DDD. However, it is possible that DDD can occur as a result of an injury or damage to the spinal cord.
Each person experiences DDD differently
While pain is one of the most common symptoms of this condition (along with a loss of mobility) the type of pain and severity varies from patient to patient. Some people live with a dull throbbing pain that never goes away, also called chronic pain. Others have sudden sharp pangs that crop up at unexpected times.
When your cervical spine is experiencing trauma or wear, the pain can spread through your body. Your neck bones support your spinal cord and nerves, so damage to these discs could result in pain or tingling radiating through your arms, hands, and fingers. Many patients might not realize that they have a spinal issue because their initial symptoms show up in their hands and arms.
When you first meet with Dr. Lanman, he will not rush to recommend cervical disc replacement surgery. While cervical disc replacement is safe, it is still considered an invasive procedure and requires time to heal. First, Dr. Lanman will ask you to try a series of non-surgical treatments to see if your DDD can be managed without an operation.
Ways to treat cervical pain without surgery
Dr. Lanman will ask you to try these non-surgical options for six weeks to see if they make an impact on your pain levels. If your symptoms persist, he may recommend surgery.
Are you a good candidate for cervical disc replacement surgery?
Dr. Lanman will conduct a health evaluation to make sure you are a good candidate for surgery. Patients need to be able to recover from the procedure and complete necessary aftercare steps to increase mobility and reduce the chances of infection. This means Dr. Lanman is looking to make sure you are in good health other than your pain. Patients also need to reach full skeletal maturity, which means this procedure is not a good fit for children and teens that are still developing.
Dr. Lanman asks all of his patients to stop smoking and using tobacco products before the procedure. Smoking is known to increase complications like infections including a detrimental impact on your skeletal system.
Once the hospital staff has determined that you are fit to leave, you can start your long-term recovery process. Cervical disc replacement recovery takes time, and it may be several weeks before you start to notice changes to your mobility and pain levels. Similarly, every patient is unique in their recovery process. It takes longer for some people to recover than others.
Dr. Lanman will provide clear instructions for successful aftercare and he will be available if you have any questions or concerns. First, ask if there are any activities that you should immediately avoid. Depending on the nature of your work or your lifestyle, you may need to refrain from certain activities that may cause infection to your incision or damage your new artificial discs.
For the most part, you will be able to return to life as normal after your cervical disc replacement surgery. You will be able to enjoy your normal diet and should be able to move around naturally. Dr. Lanman may recommend wearing soft or rigid neck support while driving in the short term, but this can be removed over time.
Potential negative side effects
Call Dr. Lanman or seek immediately medical help if you experience any negative side effects or pain after cervical disc replacement surgery. These include:
While these symptoms are rare, they could be signs of a serious problem.
If you feel like the pain in your neck or upper back is getting worse, don’t continue to suffer. Meet with Dr. Lanman and tell him where you are experiencing discomfort and what the pain feels like. The sooner you seek out specialist help for your cervical pain, the sooner you’ll be on the road to recovery. Whether Dr. Lanman recommends non-surgical treatment or artificial disc replacement, you’ll benefit from his comprehensive consultation that considers your full health profile. Request a consultation today in his Beverly Hills or Miami office.
Learn more about the pros and cons of cervical disc replacement.