What is cervical disc replacement surgery?
Cervical disc replacement surgery, also known as cervical arthroplasty, is a surgical procedure aimed at addressing damage or degeneration of the cervical discs in the neck. The cervical spine is composed of seven vertebrae, which are stacked together to form a central bony column. These vertebrae are separated by cervical discs, acting as cushions and allowing flexible movement of the neck.
The cervical spine serves as a protective tunnel for the upper part of the spinal cord, housing the spinal nerves responsible for sensation and movement in the upper body, including the neck, arms, hands, and upper torso.
When the cervical discs deteriorate or sustain damage, the space between the vertebrae narrows, resulting in potential compression of the spinal cord or nerves. This compression can lead to symptoms such as pain, numbness, and weakness. If non-surgical treatments fail to alleviate these symptoms, disc surgery may be recommended.
Cervical disc replacement surgery involves the removal of the damaged disc and its replacement with an artificial disc. In the past, the affected disc was removed, and the adjacent vertebrae were fused together to restrict motion. However, disk replacement surgery offers the advantage of preserving movement and reducing stress on the remaining cervical discs compared to traditional fusion surgery.
Why might I need cervical disc replacement surgery?
There are various reasons why an individual might require cervical disc replacement surgery. Cervical disc degeneration, a common occurrence following neck injury or as a part of the aging process, leads to a loss of space between the vertebrae. While most people experience this degeneration by the age of 60, the severity of symptoms can vary among individuals.
Symptoms that may indicate the need for cervical disc replacement surgery include neck pain, stiffness, headaches, radiating pain into the shoulders or arms, weakness in the shoulders, arms, hands, or legs, loss of balance while walking, numbness or tingling in the arms and hands, and urinary difficulties.
As with any surgical procedure, cervical disc replacement surgery carries certain risks. However, it is generally considered a safe procedure. Prior to undergoing surgery, patients are required to provide informed consent, which outlines the potential risks and benefits.
What are the risks of cervical disc replacement surgery?
Since disc replacement surgery is a relatively new technique, long-term risks and outcomes are still being studied. Not everyone is an ideal candidate for disc replacement, and fusion surgery may be more suitable in some cases. It is important to have a detailed discussion with the surgeon to thoroughly understand the risks and benefits of disc replacement surgery compared to other traditional cervical spine surgeries.
Potential risks associated with cervical disc replacement surgery include adverse reactions to anesthesia, bleeding, infection, nerve injury, spinal cord injury, spinal fluid leak, voice changes, damage to the nerves controlling vocal cords, stroke, damage to the carotid artery, difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, injury to the esophagus, failure to alleviate symptoms, displacement or loosening of the artificial disc, and the possibility of requiring additional surgery.
Individual risks may vary depending on the patient’s specific health condition. It is essential to address any concerns or questions with the surgeon before proceeding with the procedure.