Replacing a Damaged Disc [Video]
Ask the Expert: Spine Video Series
About the video: Can damaged discs be replaced?
Summit Orthopedics spine specialist Nicholas Wills, M.D. shares whether a damaged disc can be replaced.
Meet Nicholas Wills, M.D.
Dr. Wills’ approach: “I understand the concern of athletes to get back to their sport and working in combination with our therapists helps them there.”
Dr. Wills’ education: After completing his undergraduate studies at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, Dr. Wills earned his medical degree and later completed his residency at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minnesota. There he went on to participate in the fellowship program at Twin Cities Spine Center.
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Damaged discs generally should not be replaced, because damaged discs are part of the wear and tear to the body. Discs that need to be removed, especially in the neck, because there’s compression on either one of the nerves or the spinal cord, can be nicely replaced by a disc replacement or, big doctor word, cervical disc arthroplasty. Cervical disc arthroplasty is a way to avoid doing a spinal fusion after a surgery to decompress or relieve the pressure on either the nerves of the neck or the spinal cord. The advantage of a cervical disc replacement is that when the prosthesis, or when the implant, is placed, the patient will afterwards have very normal range of motion when it’s all done. It allows that neck to move freely and in the same way that it did before surgery. A neck fusion or a spinal fusion surgery stops the motion, and sometimes that’s necessary, but the disc replacement allows the patient to continue their relatively normal motion, hopefully causing less strain on those levels above and below in the long run, and keeping them away from surgery in the long run. There are discs that can be replaced, but you want to do it for the right reasons, not just for the wear and tear.
There’s cachet in describing surgical techniques as “minimally invasive.” But what does this phrase really mean? Spine surgeon Dr. David Strothman describes how the benefits of this surgical approach can vary with the surgeon performing it.
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