An artificial disc is a device which is implanted into the spine to mimic the functions of a normal disc. The entire range of disc design is primarily divided into two general types: total disc replacement and disc nucleus replacement. In case of total disc replacement, almost all the disc tissues are removed and a replacement device is implanted into the space between the vertebra. In case of a disc nucleus replacement, only the nucleus or the disc center is removed to replace it with an implant. In this type of disc replacement, the outer part of the disc (the annulus) is not removed.

Usually artificial discs are made with a combination of metal or plastic-like (biopolymer) materials or either of the two. The materials used to make the artificial discs have been used in the human body for several years. The process of Total disc replacement has been performed since the late 1980s.

Who needs an Artificial Disc?

The indications for disc replacement may vary from instance to instance. Some general indications include pain arising from the disc that could not be reduced with non-operative care, like medication, injections, physical therapy or chiropractic care.

In an ideal situation, an MRI is done to show the disc degeneration. Often discography is performed to verify which disc (s) is related to your pain. To check if the person in question is fit for disc replacement or not, the surgeon may require a few tests, including:

  • X-rays
  • Discography
  • Computed tomography (CT) scans
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans

There are some circumstances where you can’t opt for an artificial disc surgery. For example, allergy to the device materials, spondylolisthesis, osteoporosis, vertebral body fracture, spinal tumor, spinal infection, morbid obesity, pregnancy, chronic steroid use or autoimmune problems.


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