The natural cervical intervertebral disc is an amazing mechanical structure from an engineering perspective. It has the ability to absorb a large compressive load while still providing an impressive range of motion between the bones in the neck.
Duplicating the natural disc’s form and function with a synthetic—or artificial—disc is challenging. However, several artificial cervical discs have been developed and are available as a surgical option for patients with symptomatic cervical disc problems.
What Is an Artificial Cervical Disc?
An artificial cervical disc is a device inserted between two vertebrae in the neck to replace a damaged disc.
The intent of the artificial disc is to preserve motion at the disc space. It is an alternative to the commonly performed anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF), a surgical procedure that is designed to address the pathology by eliminating motion at the diseased disc level.
Artificial disc replacement (ADR) surgery—also known as a total disc arthroplasty or total disc replacement (TDR)—is typically performed for a patient with a cervical disc herniation that is causing significant neck pain and/or arm pain that has not responded to nonsurgical treatment options and is significantly affecting the individual’s quality of life and ability to function.
The theoretical advantages of the artificial cervical disc compared with a fusion include:
- Maintaining normal neck motion
- Reducing degeneration of adjacent segments of the cervical spine
- Eliminating potential complications and issues associated with the need for a bone graftand the hardware used in ACDF surgery
- Allowing early postoperative neck motion
As with all surgeries, there are also unique potential risks and complications associated with cervical artificial disc replacement.