Symptoms of Failed Cervical Disc Replacement

Symptoms of Failed Cervical Disc Replacement

Cervical disc replacement surgery is a specialized medical procedure that resolves neck and arm pain due to degenerative spinal discs. A high percentage of patients find relief and improved mobility post-surgery.

However, a small subset may experience complications, leading to a failed cervical artificial disc replacement. Such failures can manifest symptoms akin to those caused by the original degenerated disc, including pain, numbness, and limited range of motion.

Unique symptoms specific to a failed procedure may also arise. Contributing factors to these surgical failures often include the selection of an inappropriate artificial disc, errors in surgical technique, or inadequate pre-surgical preparation. It’s rare for the implant itself to be the cause of failure.

This article aims to equip you with a thorough understanding of the procedure, its potential risks, and available treatment options.


symptoms of failed cervical disc replacement


Why is Cervical Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery Performed?

Cervical disc replacement surgery is performed to alleviate chronic neck and arm pain caused by degenerative spinal discs or other spinal abnormalities, including a damaged cervical intervertebral disc. The procedure aims to restore normal function and mobility in the neck and upper body. It is also known as cervical disc arthroplasty.

It is often recommended when conservative treatments like physical therapy, medications, or spinal injections have proven ineffective.

The surgery provides pain relief and aims to maintain or improve the spine’s natural range of motion, enhancing the patient’s overall quality of life.

Causes of Failed Disc Replacement Surgery

Let’s explore the various factors that can contribute to cervical disc replacement fails, as understanding these causes is key to both prevention and effective treatment.

  • Incorrect Artificial Disc Selection: Choosing an artificial disc that is incompatible with the patient’s anatomy can lead to failure.
  • Surgical Errors: Mistakes during the surgical procedure, such as improper implantation or alignment, can result in complications with the spinal cord.
  • Inadequate Pre-Surgical Preparation: Failure to properly prepare the surgical site or release the nerves can contribute to a failed surgery.
  • Post-Surgical Infection: Infections that occur after the surgery can compromise the success of the disc replacement.
  • Wear and Tear: The artificial discs may wear down or deteriorate over time, such as degenerative disc disease, leading to failure.
  • Patient Non-Compliance: Failure to adhere to post-surgical care instructions, such as physical therapy or medication regimens, can also result in a failed procedure.

By being aware of these potential pitfalls, you can take proactive steps to minimize the risks associated with cervical disc replacement surgery.

Symptoms of Failed Disc Replacement Surgery

The symptoms of a failed disc replacement surgery may resemble those of the original spinal condition, including:


Pain is one of the most common symptoms indicating a failed cervical disc replacement surgery. Patients may experience persistent or even worsening neck pain and arm pain post-surgery.

According to a study, approximately 4-5% of cervical disc replacement surgeries (spine surgery) result in persistent pain, indicating a potential failure of the procedure [1].

Numbness and Tingling

Another symptom to watch out for is numbness and tingling sensations in the arms, hands, or fingers. These sensations can indicate nerve compression or irritation, which may occur if the artificial disc is not properly aligned or if there is post-surgical swelling.

Difficulty with Movement

A limited range of motion or difficulty moving the neck and upper body can also signify a failed cervical disc replacement.

This could be due to improper placement of the artificial disc or scar tissue formation around the surgical site. In some cases, patients may experience a reduction in their ability to turn or tilt their heads.

Other Symptoms

In addition to the above-mentioned symptoms, patients may experience other signs such as muscle weakness, spasms, or even changes in voice.

These symptoms are less common but should not be ignored, as they could indicate complications like nerve damage or implant failure.

Being aware of these symptoms is crucial for timely intervention and effective treatment. If you experience any of these signs post-surgery, consult your healthcare provider for a comprehensive evaluation.

Treatment Options after a Failed Disc Replacement Surgery

If you find yourself facing a failed cervical disc replacement surgery, it’s essential to know that you still have treatment options available. These options aim to correct the issues causing your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Let’s delve into some of the most common treatment approaches.

Anterior Revision Surgery

Anterior revision is a surgical procedure that involves removing the failed artificial disc and replacing it with a new one. This is often the first line of treatment for failed cervical disc replacement surgeries [2].

The surgery is performed through an incision in the front of the neck, similar to the original procedure. The goal is to correct any issues related to disc alignment, nerve compression, or other complications that led to the failure.

Studies indicate that the success rate for anterior revision surgeries can be as high as 80-90%, making it a viable option for many patients.

Posterior Fusion Surgery

If anterior revision is not feasible or has already been attempted without success, posterior fusion may be considered. In this procedure, the vertebrae surrounding the failed artificial disc are fused together using bone grafts, screws, or plates.

This eliminates motion at the problematic segment, thereby reducing pain and instability. While posterior fusion is generally effective, it does result in a loss of spinal motion at the fused segment, which can be a drawback for some patients.

Understanding these treatment options can empower you to make informed decisions about your healthcare journey, especially if you’re dealing with the complications of a failed cervical disc replacement surgery.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) – Cervical Disc Replacement

Is Cervical Disc Replacement a Major Surgery?

Absolutely, cervical disc replacement is considered a major surgery. It involves a complex procedure that includes removing a damaged or degenerated cervical disc and replacing it with an artificial one. Due to its complexity, it often requires general anesthesia and a hospital stay.

How Much Does Cervical Disc Replacement Surgery Cost?

The cost of cervical disc replacement surgery can vary widely depending on factors such as geographic location, the hospital where the surgery is performed, and the surgeon’s level of expertise.

In the United States, the average cost can range from $20,000 to $50,000. It’s important to consult with your healthcare provider for a more accurate estimate tailored to your specific case.

What Is The Recovery Time For Cervical Disc Replacement Surgery?

The general recovery time for cervical disc replacement surgery is approximately 4 to 6 weeks for most daily activities. However, a full recovery, which allows you to return to more strenuous activities and exercise, may take up to 3 months.

Your healthcare provider will give you a personalized recovery plan based on your specific condition and needs.


Facing issues with cervical disc replacement can be daunting, but you’re not alone. At OPA Orthopedic, we’re here to help. Call us today or use our online form to schedule a consultation. Take the first step towards better health with OPA Orthopedic.


Sources –

  1. Kholinne E, Kwak JM, Sun Y, Lee HJ, Kyoung Hwan Koh, Jeon IH. Risk Factors for Persistent Shoulder Pain After Cervical Spine Surgery. Orthopaedic Surgery. 2019;11(5):845-849. doi:
  2. ACDF. Published 2023. Accessed September 21, 2023.