Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery

Artificial Disc Replacement

Artificial disc replacement (ADR) is a motion preservation spine surgery that removes a painful damaged spinal disc and replaces it with an artificial disc. Artificial disc surgery can be performed in the neck (cervical spine) or lower back (lumbar spine).

Artificial discs are designed to replace degenerative discs and replicate our spine’s natural motion. The ADR device first received FDA approval in the United States in 2004. Since then, numerous approved disc replacement devices have been developed, tested, and implanted in spine patients. If you’d like to talk to one of our professionals about artificial disc replacement surgery contact us or make an appointment today!

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Model of the human spine depicting the end results of disc replacement surgery

Cervical Disc Replacement Surgery

Cervical artificial disc replacement, or arthroplasty, is performed under general anesthesia utilizing an incision in the front of your neck. The surgeon dissects through the neck safely to the front of the damaged disc. Then the damaged disc and bone spurs are removed. The disc space is prepared for the artificial disc to be implanted. Once implanted, the new artificial disc is confirmed on x-ray for proper positioning.

Finally, the surgeon removes his retractors and closes the skin with a suture. The patient is sent to the recovery room for recuperation lasting a few hours.

Detailed drawings of the spine and other bone areas of the human body.

Understanding the Human Spine

The human spine is a complex collection of bones (vertebral bodies), discs, muscles, and spinal nerves that allow us to move about physically. The spine provides strength, support, and flexibility to hold the weight of our bodies in an upright position. Because the spine allows for twisting, turning, and bending, we can walk, run, lift objects, participate in exercise and sports.

A vertebral disc between each pair of vertebral bodies supports movement and acts as shock absorbers when standing and moving. These discs are made of a durable outer shell and an inner gel-like substance.

However, with time and aging, almost everyone over the age of 40 develops some form of degenerative disc disease. This spine condition is a result of wearing and tearing down of the disc that can cause debilitating pain, decreased motion, and loss of quality of life.

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The Goal of Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery

The goal of artificial disc replacement aims to relieve spinal pain and restore standard disc height due to degenerative disc disease. Unlike a spinal fusion, which aims to prevent motion in the spine to reduce pain, the artificial disc preserves motion.

Artificial disc replacement has become one of the best surgical innovations for patients suffering from neck and back pain in the past 15 years. In the past orthopedic spine surgeons fused the spinal segments because of low back or neck pain. They now have motion-preserving surgery in artificial disc replacement.

Artificial disc replacement evolved from the success of artificial hips and knee replacements in orthopedic surgery. Patients have had excellent outcomes with disc replacement because they have kept them moving and active as they age.

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artificial disc replacement demo
Model of the human spine depicting the end results of disc replacement surgery

What Conditions Does Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery Treat?

Artificial disc replacement (ADR) surgery is a medical procedure used most in the cervical region (neck) to treat certain conditions affecting the spinal discs. The total disc replacement surgery can also be performed in the lumbar region (low back). Here are the primary conditions that can be addressed through artificial disc replacement:

1. Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD): This condition occurs when the intervertebral discs, which act as shock absorbers between the vertebrae, become worn down and lose their normal structure. ADR can be used to replace a damaged or degenerated disc, providing relief from associated symptoms such as chronic back or neck pain.

2. Disc Herniation: Also known as a slipped or bulging disc, this condition involves the protrusion or rupture of the intervertebral disc, causing compression of nearby nerves. ADR surgery can be employed to remove the damaged disc and replace it with an artificial one, relieving nerve compression and alleviating pain.

3. Discogenic Back or Neck Pain: This refers to chronic pain originating from the intervertebral discs themselves rather than surrounding structures. Artificial disc replacement may be considered as a treatment option to address disc-related pain that does not respond to conservative therapies.

Other conditions treated with an ADR are spinal cord compression or myelopathy, spinal stenosis, and radiculopathy.

Artificial disc replacement is not recommended for patients with the following conditions:

This includes facet joint degeneration, osteoarthritis, or ankylosing spondylitis.

Abnormal vertebral bodies weakened by osteoporosis or a bone infection. Because of the unstable bones, the artificial disc is less likely to stay in place after surgery.

Any instability of a prior neck or back surgery may reduce the success of the artificial disc replacement surgery.

Patients who are allergic to any components of metals or plastic used in the artificial disc should avoid this surgery.

Who is a Candidate for an Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery?

Best candidates for artificial disc replacement surgery suffer from severe neck or back pain that significantly impedes their quality of life. The best outcomes and benefits for artificial disc surgery have been shown with patients aged 18 to 60.

Patient candidates for artificial disc replacement must have experienced chronic neck or back pain not relieved by nonsurgical treatment for at least six months. They must have tried conservative treatment options such as physical therapy, over-the-counter or prescription analgesics, and steroid injections before being considered candidates for artificial disc replacement surgery.

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Man rubbing his neck in pain after being in an auto accident
Dr. Wang explaining spine condition to patient

Artificial Disc Replacement in Phoenix, AZ

Desert Institute for Spine Care’s expert spine surgeons has been involved with artificial disc replacement or total disc arthroplasty research and clinical studies for over ten years. Our world-renowned orthopedic spine specialists in Phoenix, AZ work with patients to treat complex spine conditions, including those who have failed previous surgical treatment.

Our surgeons routinely offer patients a second opinion to evaluate and provide the least invasive yet most effective treatment options. DISC offers a complete range of nonsurgical, ultra-minimally invasive, motion-preserving, and minimally invasive solutions for patients suffering from painful neck and back conditions.

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Obtain a Second Opinion

Dr Abrams explaining spine x-ray Dr. Abrams laughing

Are You A Candidate For Artificial Disc Replacement?

When your neck or back pain prohibits you from working and living an active physical lifestyle, you should consult with an expert spine surgeon.


Our spine health blog features up-to-date spine education and expert spine tips from our spine specialists here at DISC.

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