Artificial Disc Replacement vs. A Spine Fusion, Which One Is Right for Me?

Artificial Disc Replacement vs. A Spine Fusion, Which One Is Right for Me?
June 26, 2017

What is spinal fusion?

Spinal fusion is a surgical procedure that permanently fuses two or more vertebral bones together. A graft (a human or synthetic bone), metal rods, screws, plates, or cages are often used to hold the bones together. Once the bones are fused together, there will be no movement between them. Spinal fusion can put additional stress on the vertebrae next to the fused portion of the spine. As a result, it may increase the rate of future degeneration.

Why is spinal fusion performed?

The main purposes of spinal fusion are to improve the stability of the spine, correct a deformity, or reduce pain. Spinal fusions are performed when a fracture has occurred on the spine, severe disc degeneration is present, moderate to severe scoliosis, a slipped vertebrae or when the spine is weakened due to an infection or spinal tumor.

What is an Artificial Disc Replacement?

Also referred to as a total disc replacement, artificial disc replacement uses synthetic disc material (such as titanium and flexible polymers) to replace a diseased spinal disc. It is made to very closely imitate the human disc and mimic its function. A disc replacement can be an alternative surgical procedure to a spinal fusion.

Why is an artificial disc replacement performed?

An artificial disc replacement is performed to replace a diseased or degenerative disc. The goal is to reduce pain and remain the motion of the spine at the same time. As an alternative to spinal fusion, artificial or “total” disc replacement has gained great popularity in recent years for the treatment of disc disease.

Compared with spinal fusion, a disc replacement preserves the range of motion of the spine, and it puts less stress on the adjacent vertebrae. The updated technology behind disc replacements has increased dramatically in both its imitation of a real human disc and overall patient outcome satisfaction.

An Artificial Disc Replacement may be recommended for:
  • Moderate to Severe Degenerative Disc Disease
  • Degenerative Spondylolisthesis
  • Severe Cervical or Lumbar Disc Deterioration Disorders
Why might an Artificial Disc Replacement (ADR) be preferred over a Fusion?:
  • Motion is retained (or restored)
  • Less stress on the spine
  • Discomfort is Minimal/Resolves
  • Recovery is shorter
  • Less Hardware is needed

Not everyone will be candidate for a disc replacement and a complete exam and discussion need to take place between the patient and their spine doctor. The cervical (neck) region is the most common area for a disc replacement. The lumbar spine is also becoming more common. Disc replacement in most areas of the spine is increasing as advancements are made in the intricate details, availability, and wider variation of artificial discs.

At Atlantic Spine Center, we perform artificial disc replacements, spine fusions, mini-fusions and offer many other treatment options including conservative and minimally invasive.

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