Posted on: April 26, 2016
A newer spine surgery technique called cervical spine disc replacement leaves you far more mobile than traditional spinal fusion. By Dr. Marshal D. Peris, Co-director of Spine Surgery at the Orthopedic and Spine Institute of Northern Westchester Hospital
If you have discomfort – such as neck or arm pain – due to problems with cervical spinal discs (those in your neck), you’ve probably heard of the spinal fusion procedure, a common surgical solution, which locks cervical vertebrae together permanently after removing damaged discs. While this spine surgery offers excellent results, you need to know about a newer technique, called cervical spine disc replacement that leaves you far more mobile. Here, I explain this advanced and exciting treatment option, and help you determine if you might be a candidate.
The cervical spine is housed in the neck, with seven vertebrae separated by discs. Because cervical disc malfunction can impact the spinal cord, you can have problems throughout your body. You may experience neck or arm pain; weakness in the arms; numbness and tingling in the arm or hand; or balance problems. Symptoms can be intermittent, chronic, or triggered by specific activities.
Ultimately, all symptoms result from compression or narrowing (stenosis) of the space for the spinal cord or the nerves exiting the spinal cord. Stenosis occurs in various ways. As you age, your spinal discs lose height (that’s why we all get shorter), causing them to bulge. Picture gently squeezing down on a cream donut: It gets shorter but also wider. A bulging disc can press on a nerve exiting the spinal cord. At a later stage, the bulge can harden (calcify) into a bone spur, which can also compress a nerve. In the case of a herniated disk, now you’re squeezing the cream donut so hard that cream leaks out. This disc material can put direct pressure on a nerve.
Now, a sophisticated procedure called cervical spine disc replacement a goes a step better for suitable candidates than traditional fusion surgery, which reduces movement. By replacing the damaged disc with an implant closely resembling a human disc, the procedure maintains the mobility of the cervical spine; in some cases, even improving motion. In other words, your neck retains some – or even better — range of motion.
The best candidates are active people under 60 years, who want to maintain greater mobility. In fact, post-surgery movement is so good, that I don’t recommend the procedure for patients with existing arthritis in the neck joints. If you increase movement in a place with arthritis, you actually increase pain. While documented outcomes for cervical spine disc replacement are positive for 15 years, no longer-term data exists.
Following surgery, you will likely go home the same day, take precautions for six weeks, then resume full activities. Northern Westchester Hospital is one of the few hospitals in the region to perform cervical spine disc replacement; surgeons use the most advanced version of the procedure, which permits the implanting of two discs at once.
Dr. Marshal Peris is a member of the Mount Kisco Medical Group, Co-Director of Spine Surgery at The Orthopedic and Spine Institute at Northern Westchester Hospital and President of the Medical Staff at Northern Westchester Hospital. He received his undergraduate degree from Cornell University and received his medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Dr. Peris completed his internship, orthopedic surgery residency, and a fellowship in spine surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Marshal D. Peris, MD FAAOS is Co-director of Spine Surgery at the Orthopedic and Spine Institute of Northern Westchester Hospital and Director of Spine Surgery, Mount Sinai Health System at CareMount Medical. Dr. Peris is a Board Certified orthopedic surgeon and a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. He received his medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Dr. Peris completed his internship, orthopedic surgery residency, and a fellowship in spine surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Learn more at www.nwhorthoandspine.org/DrPeris.