COVID-19 update:  Our hospital is still fully open for appointments and admissions, however visitors are not permitted.

Artificial Disc Replacement

Artificial disc replacement involves replacing the old and worn out disc with an artificial disc that is made of a material that is long lasting. This procedure has been used in clinical trials in Europe for about 15 years. Surgeons have used this procedure in the United Kingdom for several years now, with exceptional results.

What is artificial disc replacement?

This involves replacing the old and worn out disc with an artificial disc that is made of a material that is meant to last awhile. This procedure has been used in clinical trials in Europe for about 15 years.  Surgeons have used this procedure in the United Kingdom for several years now, with exceptional results.

What is the success rate?

The success rate for artificial disc replacement surgery is not as straight forward as listing a series of spine surgery statistics. Success is judged on many subjective and objective measures. The artificial disc replacement is usually judged as successful if the patient’s pain is dramatically reduced, mobility is restored and there is no lingering complication. Please note that we do not say that the pain will be completely eliminated, only that it will be dramatically reduced.

If a patient has experienced back pain for many years from degenerative disc disease, changes due to compression of the ligaments of the spine, the spinal processes and nerves may still cause pain after the artificial disc is inserted. Nerve changes may cause phantom pain, which is pain that is no longer caused by the initial mechanical force on the nerve. So while the doctor from an objective point of view considers the artificial disc operation a success, the patient may not, because pain is still present. This is why we hear success rates varing between 70% and 96%.

These success rates for the artificial disc replacement are significantly higher than fusion operations, which are usually rated between 50% and 55%. What is not often included in fusion spine surgery statistics is the 25% of fusion patients that have significant pain from the bone harvesting of the vertebral plug in the hip.

Good pre-op testing and diagnosis are the most important part in developing a patient’s treament plan and enhances the chance for success. Also, a determination to manage post-op pain by the patient, if present, is important to the long term success of the artificial disc procedure, as phantom pain can be mitigated or stopped. One should remember that spine surgery statistic only tell part of the story where artificial disc replacement surgery is concerned.

As with any surgical procedure, there are risks involved. This doesn’t mean these things will happen, it’s just good to stay informed as to what the risks are. This is a list associated with artificial disc replacement as well as for cervical fusion.

Risks of artificial disc replacement:

Risks include but not limited to:

  • pain
  • infection
  • blood clots
  • blood loss
  • allergic reactions

Other risks and discomforts:

  • difficulty swallowing
  • hoarseness
  • breakage, degradation or displacement of the implant or plate
  • failure to achieve fusion
  • impaired muscle function
  • spinal instability
  • a change in the curvature of the spine
  • vessel damage/bleeding
  • nerve injuries, including upper or lower extremity peripheral nerve injury, numbness, clumsiness, foot drop
  • reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) and weakness
  • tears or hardening of the tissues surrounding the disc
  • deterioration of the facet joints, which are next to the vertebrae
  • spinal stenosis, or narrowing of the spinal canal
  • osteolysis related to wear debris

When undergoing surgery using the cervical replacement procedure, surgery time is usually 1-2 hours.  Most patients leave the hospital the following day. Soft collar is optional. There are few activity restrictions for the first 6 weeks.

Recovery is always quicker if you abide by the treatment plan set out by all your medical staff.

Contact us

If you would like to know more about our Artificial Disc Replacement procedure then contact us today by phone on 020 3370 1030 or email spinespecialists@hje.org.uk

Spine Clinic

The Spine Clinic at St John & St Elizabeth Hospital is a centre for excellence in the diagnosis, intervention and aftercare of all spinal conditions.

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Patient information

Our Hospital is renowned for providing exemplary levels of care across more than 90 services. From orthopaedics, to urology, our private GP practice and Urgent Care Clinic, our services are led by some of London’s leading Consultants. For more information, and to find a service suitable for your care, find out more about the services that we offer.

Make an enquiry

If you have any questions relating to treatment options or pricing information, get in touch with us by filling out one of our contact boxes or giving us a call on 020 3370 1030.

Our Appointments Team have a dedicated and caring approach to finding you the earliest appointment possible with the best specialist.

If you are self-paying you don’t need a referral from your GP for a consultation. You can simply refer yourself* and book an appointment.

If you have health insurance (e.g. Bupa, Axa Health, Aviva), you will need to contact your insurer to get authorisation before any treatment, and in most cases you will also require a referral letter from your GP.

If you are not registered with a GP, we have an in-house private GP practice you can use. Alternatively, we can suggest the most appropriate course of action for you to take, given your location and individual circumstances.

*Please note – for investigations such as X-rays and MRIs, a referral will be required. However, we may be able to arrange this for you through our on-site private GP.

    Make an enquiry

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