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Cervical Arthroplasty: Cervical Disc Replacement Is a New Option to Treat Sports Spine Injuries

November 30, 2018

Weekend warriors and professional athletes know that neck pain, particularly from a herniated disc, can derail your sports endeavors. For those used to being active, sitting on the sidelines waiting to recover can be frustrating. And, if nonsurgical treatments fail, you may need a surgical solution. Doctors have traditionally performed fusion disc surgery, but a new option of cervical arthroplasty (i.e. cervical disc replacement) offers multiple benefits.

Getting Rid of That Pain in the Neck

If you have pain in your neck with weakness, tingling or a burning sensation in your arm, you may have a herniated disc. A herniated disc is a common source of neck or back pain. A disc is a soft, rubbery pad in the spinal column between the vertebrae that acts as a cushion or shock absorber. A disc is made up of a thick ring of cartilage surrounding a gel-like substance, or nucleus. If a disc herniates or ruptures, the nucleus pushes against the cartilage and toward the spinal column. This pressure causes a reaction in the spinal nerves, resulting in numbness or pain.

Herniated discs can be the result of an injury or from wear and tear of the area. With age, the discs can become less flexible and certain activities or lifestyle issues can weaken them, such as improper lifting, repetitive strenuous activities, sudden pressure, excessive body weight or smoking.

In many cases, nonsurgical treatments such as rest, over-the-counter pain relievers, muscle relaxers and cold compresses can help relieve immediate discomfort, and exercises to strengthen the back and abdominal muscles can be used to keep the injury from recurring.

But if the pain doesn’t go away after treatment, surgery may necessary.

Surgical Options for Herniated Discs

Traditionally, surgeons used fusion to fix the herniated disc. To do that, they would remove the damaged disc and replace it with to stabilize the area. Regardless of which type of replacement is used, the goal is for the affected area to fuse together, but this results in a loss of motion in that area. Recovery from this surgery is lengthy while the fusion takes place. You may be in a surgical collar for up to six weeks. During this recovery period, physical activity is limited.Spine surgeon looks at X-rays

With cervical arthroplasty, or a cervical disc replacement, the surgical process is similar with surgeons still removing the damaged disc. However, instead of a bone graft or synthetic device, a metal disc replacement is inserted. Because the area is not fused, the motion between the vertebrae is maintained.

Recovery from cervical arthroplasty is faster than traditional fusion surgery. Generally, a surgical collar is not needed, allowing range of motion from day one, versus 4 to 6 weeks with the fusion procedure. This means a quicker return to activity.

Cervical arthroplasty can be used for chronic and acute injuries, and has helped athletes who experienced injuries from a variety of sports return to the field of play. Cervical arthroplasty isn’t the right answer for everyone. Children or those with abnormal instability in the affected area — caused by significant osteoporosis or spondylosis (a degeneration of the spinal column), or with previous fusion of the discs — are not recommended to have cervical arthroplasty.

However, for those who are eligible, cervical arthroplasty may be the answer to getting back to activity faster and with less pain. Because it is image-guided and microsurgical, it is the most sophisticated methodology of spine surgery.

Although cervical arthroplasty only came to the U.S.10 years ago, Orlando Health already has treated more than 600 patients using this procedure. If you have concerns about neck pain or a herniated disc and want to discuss what surgical options are available, please contact us today.

Are you interested in learning more about Orlando Health's NeuroSpine Center of Excellence?

Individuals suffering from back pain need look no further than the NeuroSpine Center of Excellence at Orlando Health – Health Central Hospital. With the only Joint Commission-certified spine surgery program in Central Florida, the center offers highly effective noninvasive treatments and minimally invasive spine surgery for complex neck and back issues.

Learn More Here

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