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Disc Replacement: An Alternative to Spinal Fusion
Spinal fusion surgery has been a staple for patients needing surgery to correct chronic spinal pain or immobility. Fusing vertebrae together stabilizes the spine and can be very effective for relief, but medical experts are performing more and more artificial disc replacements as an alternative to spinal fusion. This innovative approach offers benefits that cause some patients consider this newer option.
Artificial disc replacement and spinal fusion are very different types of spine surgeries. The most traditional method, spinal fusion, involves removing a damaged disc between vertebrae and then fusing the vertebrae together using metal plates, screws and bone grafts. The outcome is one solid structure. Artificial disc replacement involves replacing a damaged disc with a prosthetic one, allowing the spine to ultimately return to its normal function.
Experienced physicians such as Dr. Charla Fischer in New York City must determine the appropriate treatment plan for each patient. Less invasive treatments like physical therapy and pain management should be attempted before surgery is recommended. Many patients experience relief from their symptoms from conservative methods instead of undergoing surgery. However, if those approaches are not sufficient, spine surgery may be the best option.
Either artificial disc replacement or spinal fusion might be the recommended surgery for patients with herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, or discs otherwise damaged. A physician like Dr. Fischer who has performed many of these procedures is the best choice for creating a treatment plan and performing the appropriate spine surgery if required.
The outcome of both of these surgeries is typically similar in terms of pain relief. However, artificial disc replacement often promotes faster healing because there are no bone grafts involved. Also, range of motion is better since vertebrae are not fused together to become one piece like in spinal fusion. Disc replacement has been shown to require fewer further surgeries, while spinal fusion sometimes leads to additional procedures because surrounding areas to the fusion sometimes develop problems as well.
The great news is that Dr. Fischer should be able to perform either of these procedures using minimally invasive techniques. This allows smaller incisions, less blood loss, and quicker recoveries than open spine surgery procedures. However, the recovery time for artificial disc replacement is usually faster than with spinal fusion. If you think you may need spine surgery, speak with your physician about these options to see which is best for you.