Summit Orthopedics: A Leader in Total Disc Replacement Surgery

Disc replacement surgery is an emerging surgical procedure to treat pain when conservative treatments fail to provide relief. We explain when this procedure is appropriate, as well as the advantages it offers.

Our necks are marvels of engineering supported by our spinal column. The seven bones in our neck are known as the cervical spine. These bones, or vertebrae, are separated by intervertebral discs that allow the segments of the spine to move freely. Our intervertebral discs also act as shock absorbers during activity.

Age, injury, poor posture, or diseases like arthritis can lead to disc degeneration in the cervical spine. Although a significant number of us will develop degenerative spine disorders at some point in our lives, most of us will not experience any symptoms related to these degenerative processes. Even when these disorders do cause pain, most can be treated with non-surgical methods.

When neck pain does not improve through conservative therapy, a number of surgical procedures are available. Cervical fusion has been considered the gold standard for surgical treatment of patients with non-responsive symptoms in the cervical spine, but a newer emerging treatment called cervical total disc replacement is increasingly being used. During the disc replacement procedure, the degenerated disc is removed completely and replaced by an artificial device. Although outcome data is still being gathered, initial results suggest that a disc replacement procedure enables a more rapid post-surgical recovery than fusion, and eliminates the fusion risk that fused bones won’t heal properly. Disc replacement also maintains anatomical disc space height, preserves range of motion in the spine, and may prevent some of the long-term complications of fusion surgery.

Historically, cervical total disc replacement was approved to treat only cases involving one level (one diseased disc) of the cervical spine. However, last summer, the FDA approved the use of an artificial disc device to treat two-level cervical disc disease by replacing two diseased discs. The risk of long-term complications after two-level fusion surgery is greater than it is after one-level surgery; it is hoped that total disc replacement for two-level cases will improve outcomes and reduce these long-term complication risks.

Few surgeons are certified to perform the complex disc replacement surgery. Following FDA approval, Dr. Nick Wills at Summit Orthopedics was the first surgeon in the Midwest to perform the newly approved two-level cervical disc replacement procedure. His expertise with this emerging surgical procedure was developed through years of experience implanting the device in one-level cases. Dr. Wills conducts classes across the country to teach other surgeons how to implant artificial disc devices.

“Cervical disc replacement is not the right solution for every patient, but this procedure gives us another proverbial arrow in our quiver,” says Dr. Wills. “For appropriate patients, total disc replacement allows us to take pressure off the spinal nerves while helping patients to retain motion—which is very advantageous.”

At Summit Orthopedics, we are dedicated to offering our patients the most advanced options available to improve outcomes, preserve range of motion, and restore function that enables you to enjoy the greatest quality of life.

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