What is disc replacement surgery?

Disc replacement, also known as arthroplasty, is a surgical procedure that restores the function of a joint. This often involves resurfacing the bones so that joints can move smoothly. It also involves implants. In joint replacement surgery, your doctor places an artificial disc between the bones in your neck. The implant is made from metal and mimics the shape and function of the cushioning discs in your neck.

Your doctor might recommend a disc replacement if other treatments aren't getting rid of your neck pain. If you're having trouble moving your neck, you may also need this surgery.

What to expect from disc replacement surgery

Arthroplasty is a major surgery that requires a stay in the hospital. You'll need to make arrangements to be there for a few days after the operation. You'll be completely asleep under general anesthesia.

On the operating table, your doctor makes an incision in your skin above the disc. Once they access to the bones and tissues, they remove the damaged part of the disc and insert the prosthetic one. They may also add a metal plate to stabilize your neck or spine. The doctor closes the incision with stitches, staples or sterile tape. They also cover it in a sterile bandage before taking you to a room to recover.

Doctors recommend that you start moving again soon after surgery. You may meet with a physical therapist to work on exercises to help with your strength and to regain function. Most patients find it easier to perform daily activities after disc replacement, notes the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. The replacement joint lasts for years. It also improves your quality of life.

Common conditions requiring disc replacement surgery

Many joint diseases cause the bones and other parts of your neck bones or discs to break down over time.

Some conditions that often require arthroplasty include:

  • Injuries
  • Bone spurs
  • Bone tumors
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Cervical disc damage
  • Compressed spinal nerves

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