My brother had a disc replacement in his neck about a year ago. I understand this is a fairly new operation. He doesn't really seem to have much motion even after surgery. He looks stiff and unnatural in his movements. Should I say something to him? Maybe there's something they can do to help him. I don't want to make him self-conscious by saying anything.
Artificial disc replacement (ADR) have been in use in Europe for many years. But they are relatively new in the United States. The first ADR were approved by the FDA in 2004 for the lumbar spine (low back).
The artificial disc is inserted in the space between two vertebrae. The goal is to replace the diseased or damaged disc while keeping your normal spinal motion. Disc replacement can be done instead of fusing the spine and losing motion. Replacing a damaged disc in the cervical spine (neck) is a bit trickier. The disc is part of a complex joint in the spine. Making a replacement disc that works and that will last is not an easy task.
Choosing the right implant is important. If the disc was collapsed before surgery, the disc space was probably narrow. There might have been limited motion just from that factor. The surgeon might have inserted a narrow implant to avoid overstuffing the disc space. The result can be limited motion.
It's also possible your brother developed some compensatory stiffness to help with neck instability before the operation. It can take some time and may require some intervention to restore normal motion. A few visits with a physical therapist can help with any muscular imbalances that might be contributing to the problem.
It may not be a bad idea to ask some questions based on your observations. Your concern about being tactful shows that you are already aware of the need to be careful in how this comes across. If you look for the right moment, it may be possible to broach the subject without causing problems and maybe even bringing about a better result in the end for your brother.
Neil Duggal. Cervical Disc Arthoplasty: A Practical Overview. In Current Orthopaedic Practice. May/June 2009. Vol. 20. No. 3. Pp. 216-221.
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