Spine (vertebral column) is the central structure of our body that helps in keeping us upright. It consists of bony vertebrae, which are separated by cartilaginous intervertebral discs. The discs acts as a shock absorbers and prevent the two vertebrae from grinding into each other. There are 33 vertebrae divided into 7 cervical, 12 thoracic, 5 lumbar, 5 sacral, and 4 coccygeal vertebrae. The vertebral column houses an enclosed cavity known as the spinal canal. The spinal cord is an elongated tubular bundle of spinal nerves that runs from C1 vertebra to L1 vertebra within the spinal canal. It originates from the base of brain and ends in the form of a horsetail (cauda equina). There are 31 pairs of spinal nerves that emerge from the spinal cord in between the vertebrae. The entire vertebral column is supported by various ligaments, tendons and muscles. All these soft tissue structures protect the delicate spinal cord and provide flexibility to your spine.
Artificial disc replacement is a major surgical procedure to replace the old worn out or diseased disc with an artificial implant that mimics the functions of a normal disc. The artificial disc is either made up of steel, plastic or a combination of two. It effectively carries the lumbar load and restores spinal mobility. The surgery aims at relieving symptoms caused due to degenerated disc impinging the spinal cord or spinal nerves.
The patients who meet the following eligibility criteria can go ahead with a disc replacement surgery-
The surgery usually takes 2 to 3 hours. After completion of the surgery, you will be moved to the recovery room for observation. Once you regain consciousness, vitals (blood pressure, respiratory rate, body temperature and pulse rate) will be monitored and thereafter, you'll be shifted to your hospital room. Next day your doctor will ask you to stand and take a few steps. Walking can be initiated with the help of crutches or walkers. Expect some soreness at the site of incision. But, this will also gradually wean off in a few days. For immediate relief from soreness and pain, apply an ice pack to the affected area.
You will be discharged home after 2-3 days. Gradually resume your normal activities once you get back home. Do not stress yourself and take adequate rest intervals between work. Avoid strenuous activities such lifting heavy weight, jumping, running etc. You will be advised to wear a back brace for the next 4 to 6 weeks. Your doctor will prescribe some supplements for bone strengthening and pain relief medications. Complete recovery post-surgery usually takes around 3 months.
Physical therapy rehabilitation
Physical therapy plays an important role during rehabilitation. Your doctor will recommend physical therapy almost 4 weeks after surgery. The rehabilitation plan consists of
Artificial disc replacement surgery preserves most of the natural range of motion of the spine. After completing the physical rehabilitation program most of the patients will have little or no residual pain and regain complete mobility of the spine.
Studies have reported 87.5% success rate after disc replacement surgery with no device failure or major complications.
There is increased risk of complications in patients in whom artificial disc replacement is performed at multiple spinal levels. In case you experience anything unusual post-surgery, such as high fever, severe pain, spinal rigidity, inability to move a body part, tingling, numbness, difficulty breathing etc. make sure to discuss it with your surgeon.