4 Great Benefits of Artificial Disc Replacement Over Spinal Fusion

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Your life has changed, for the worse, because of disc problems in your spine, and you’re reviewing your options. Here, we explore why artificial disc replacement excels over spinal fusion.

Your life has become so much smaller thanks to disc problems in your spine. The pain, the radiating symptoms, the weakness — they’ve all robbed you of your ability to move freely and without discomfort. And you want it to stop.

Well, you’ve come to the right place. At our practice, Dr. Ali H. Mesiwala is a board-certified neurosurgeon who, along with his team, has extensive experience helping patients to overcome debilitating and life-changing back or neck pain. 

While there are several approaches for relieving disc-related spine problems, we’ve had great success with artificial disc replacement versus spinal fusion. 

Artificial disc replacement provides these four benefits: 

1. Maintains your mobility

When you have a disc that’s worn down to the point where it’s compressing nerve roots and creating a host of local and radiating symptoms, that damaged disc needs to go. One approach is to remove the disc and fuse the two vertebrae on either side together, which relieves the nerve compression, but you can lose some mobility along your spine.

As the name suggests, with artificial disc replacement, we remove your diseased disc, decompress the spinal nerve(s)/canal, and replace it with an artificial one. This new disc acts as your old one did, moving with your spine and acting as a spacer between the bony structures. This means you’ll be able to preserve range of motion in your lower back or in your neck, depending on the location of the replacement disc.

Ultimately, the goal of spine surgery is maintain patient lifestyle, and artificial disc replacement is one way to ensure that patients can continue life - uninterrupted. 

2. Has shorter recovery time

Dr. Mesiwala performs your artificial disc replacement using the most minimally invasive techniques available. Using tiny incisions and specialized tools, he removes and replaces your disc with minimal collateral tissue damage.

With a spinal fusion, the procedure is more complex and requires more access because the fusion requires a bone graft. 

Better still, Dr. Mesiwala can perform an artificial disc replacement on an outpatient basis, which means you can return to the comforts of your own home on the same day. Thanks to the minimal impact of the surgery, your recovery should be quicker and more comfortable than it would be after a more invasive spinal fusion procedure.

Patients are able to walk the same day and typically return to unrestricted activities within 2-4 weeks after the procedure. 

3. Protects surrounding discs

When you have a spinal fusion, it places more pressure on the remaining discs immediately above and below the fusion, leading to adjacent segment disease (ASD). This problem crops up fairly frequently, with rates of ASD averaging nearly 20% after posterior lumbar fusion surgery. This common problem might create a need for more surgery down the road, which artificial disc replacement can avoid.

4. Offers better long-term results

Thanks to many of the benefits we outline above, artificial disc replacement offers better long-term results than spinal fusion. In a meta-analysis that was released in 2018, researchers explored five-year results comparing those who had an artificial disc versus those who had spinal fusion. 

In each study they reviewed, the conclusions were that artificial disc replacement offers:

  • Improved function scores
  • Superior patient satisfaction
  • Lower reoperation rates

Of course, there are considerations when it comes to choosing which approach is best for your disc-related spine problems, and we’re happy to sit down with you to review your unique needs and circumstances.

As a faculty member for these types of procedures, and a researcher, Dr. Ali Mesiwala is on the forefront of the latest in spinal care including artificial disc replacement. He offers a comprehensive assessment and treatment plan. After having implanted thousands of artificial discs in the weekend warriors, parents, professional athletes and military special forces he has reproducible results and clinical outcomes. 

To get started, please contact one of our offices in Newport Beach, Marina del Rey, or Rancho Cucamonga, California, to schedule a consultation.