Artificial Disc

Artificial Disc

Our central nervous system is made up of two parts – the brain and the spinal cord.  The brain is held inside our skull, safe from most but the most horrific of head-accidents.  The spinal cord runs down the spine through holes in the vertebrae that are hold together by a series of ligaments and discs made from cartilage.  Our spinal columns work hard every hour of every day to give us the forward and backwards bend and side to side twist we need to function properly and through this movement, these vertebral discs experience a lot of degeneration and wear over a long period of time.  Occasionally they will become unbearably painful due to inflammation from the wear caused on them and an artificial disc might need to be surgically implanted.

What is an Artificial Disc?

In cases where the vertebral discs are too badly damaged to repair or reshape it may be necessary to completely replace the natural disc with an artificial disc. This is a surgery that is usually only selected for a patient when all other procedures have been attempted or ruled out and is only done in the case of recurring chronic back pain caused by the degradation of the vertebral discs.

The procedure of artificial disc replacement is a relatively new procedure but boasts a success rate of almost 85%. In the past, spinal fusion surgery, where two of the spine’s vertebrae are fused together, was a more popular surgery but because of the complications of this surgery, including increased wear on the surrounding vertebrae, artificial disc surgery is becoming more and more commonplace. The biggest advantage of this method is that it maintains normal spine motion.

Artificial Disc Procedure

The artificial disc that is used for this surgical procedure is manufactured by a few different companies but they all work in the same general way. To perform the operation, the surgeon will remove the damaged or diseased vertebral disc and clean out all remaining debris before spreading the vertebrae apart. Once the vertebrae are spread apart and pressure is relieved off the nerves running along the spinal column, end plates are tapped into place on both the top and bottom vertebrae. Now the surgeon will position a soft middle part of the artificial disc, creating a working fully artificial disc. The spine is let to return to its normal position and the spacing and range of motion is checked for correctness. Because of the relative newness of the surgery, there is a long list of operational criteria – you will not be eligible if you suffer from bone disease or tumours and various other ailments.

Costs of Artificial Disc Surgery

The artificial disc operation is covered by the NHS provided the patient meets the requirements laid out for the surgery which are quite expansive. Your surgeon will advise you if these criteria are met and can schedule you for the surgery. If you don’t meet the criteria you might find private hospitals willing to do the artificial disc surgery, but they will charge you for it and the operation is a very expensive one.