Q: I suffer from a herniated disc in my neck and keep hearing about artificial disc replacement surgery. How do I know if I'm a good candidate for this surgery?
A: Although candidacy for any kind of spine surgery is subjective, surgery should always be the last resort. As a fellowship-trained and board-certified spine surgeon, I would only recommend spine surgery to those who have been unable to relieve their pain through physical therapy, injections or other forms of pain management. I also want to emphasize the importance of lifestyle changes, such as smoking cessation, in the treatment of herniated discs.
If you and your surgeon have established you are a candidate for surgery, you must then decide what kind of treatment will work the best for you. The two most common surgical options for a herniated disc in the neck are cervical spine fusion and cervical artificial disc replacement.
Artificial disc replacement in the neck has become an attractive surgical solution because it allows for motion presDr. thymay prevent some of the long-term complications from a spinal fusion. This surgery may also allow for a quicker return to daily activities and exercise.
Disc replacement surgery is a good option for younger people who are experiencing arm pain related to a herniated disc and who have a stable spine — meaning that bones have not significantly slipped in front of the others.
Those who have significant arthritis with neck pain, as well as spine instability, are not good candidates for disc replacement and may wish to consider spinal fusion as a treatment option.
— Dr. Venkatanarayanan Ganapathy, UT Erlanger Neurosurgery; member, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society