The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved artificial disc replacement on October 26, 2004. Artificial disc replacement is a surgical alternative to spinal fusion surgery for the treatment of low back pain.
The goal of surgery for back pain is to remove the worn-out disc that is causing pain. Traditionally, that empty disc space was filled with bone graft from the pelvis to fuse the bones above and below the disc space together. The artificial disc fills the empty disc space and allows bending to occur between the two bones above and below.
The search for a successful artificial disc began in the 1950’s with placement of metal balls or rubber spacers into the disc space after the painful disc was removed. The artificial disc approved by the FDA is made of two metal plates and a plastic space in-between that moves as you bend.
Candidates for artificial disc replacement are women and men between 18 and 65 years of age who have low back pain due to one worn out disc at the base of their low back. They have to have tried and failed non-surgical treatment for at least six months. People with leg pain due to disc herniations, prior fusions, stenosis or tightness around the nerves, curves or instability to their backs, or multiple worn out discs are not candidates for artificial disc replacement.
The main benefit of artificial disc replacement over fusion is that disc replacement preserves motion in the spine. Maintaining motion places less stress on discs above or below the surgically treated level and may slow or prevent the discs above and below from wearing out. In addition, artificial disc surgery is shorter, has less blood loss during surgery, has a shorter hospital stay, a quicker recovery, and a faster return to work compared to fusion.
Artificial disc replacement with this disc has been done in Europe and around the world for 17 years. The FDA study in the United States showed that patients with artificial discs did as well as patients with fusions at two years after their surgeries. Because disc replacement surgery.
Artificial Disc Replacement in the Lumbar Spine preserves motion, long-term results of artificial disc surgery might prove to be better than the results of fusion.