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For many people, a pain in the neck, spine or lower back can be resolved over time with proper care. Some patients, however, with more serious complications, may experience life-altering neck or back pain. The piercing pain and limited motion caused by the pinching of nerves between bones, whose cushions have worn away, can be crippling. The good news is that as science has progressed, new and better ways of replacing joints and discs are being discovered. Littleton Adventist Hospital is proud to be part of this ongoing research and excited about the remarkable results we have seen in our disc replacement patients.
The vertebral column is made up of 26 bones that provide axial support to the trunk. The vertebral column provides protection to the spinal cord, which runs through its central cavity. Between each vertebra is an intervertebral disk, which acts as a shock absorber. The discs are made up of soft tissue and have the ability to absorb energy as the spinal column flexes, extends and twists. Nerves from the spinal cord exit the spinal column between each vertebra.
For patients who are suffering from degenerative disc disease, their disc has diminished to the point of bones rubbing against one another, thus pinching the nerves and causing excruciating pain.
Artificial discs have been used in Europe for over twenty years and have been more recently approved for use in the United States. Littleton Adventist Hospital currently offers artificial disc replacement to our patients suffering from degenerative disc disease.
This type of disc replacement not only takes away the pain, but also restores the normal motion of the back. This advancement in technology gives hope to those who may have been considering fusion surgery - the traditional fix for sufferers of this type of pain. Results from fusion surgery are effective for pain but limited in motion due to the bones being fused together in order to prevent nerves from being pinched.
The new artificial disc design is similar to a cup and ball joint and allows the vertebrae on either side the ability to move freely. Only with medical consultation can a patient determine if this is the best option for their individual condition.
Candidates for Replacement
Due to the strict qualifications, fewer than 5% of patients will be accepted for this surgery. Further studies are being conducted to find better ways of replacing discs, and hopefully, in time, this type of disc replacement will be offered to a wide variety of patients.
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