Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Neck FAQ


What sort of revision surgeries are needed after disc replacement in the neck? The surgeon mentioned this possibility to me but I forgot to ask what that means.


Artificial disc replacement has been available for the lumbar spine for quite some time (with successful outcomes). As a result, this new technology has been developed for the cervical spine as well. And the procedure has been done enough that there are short- to mid-term results reported now. As with any surgical procedure, there can be complications, problems, or adverse events. These can occur right in the operating room, shortly after in the recovery room, or postoperatively. Postop covers a wide range of time frames from hours, to days, to weeks, and beyond. Patient complications can also be wide ranging from simple to complex infections, blood clots, fractures, and so on. There can be device failure -- the implant may collapse into the bone or loosen and back out of the disc space. The implant (artifical disc device) itself can break. Sometimes the implant isn't placed in the best or most optimal position creating biomechanical problems with movement. Any of these problems can require additional surgery to correct. It may be necessary to remove the implant and try another or remove it and fuse the segment. In some cases, the surgeon just adds some additional fixation (metal plate, screws, pins) to hold the implant in place. Your surgeon may have other thoughts in mind as to what can happen. You'll probably still have opportunity to ask additional questions -- either at your next visit or during the pre-operative work-up. Take advantage of that time to make sure you are clear on all aspects of your treatment and follow-up. Michael Zindrick, MD, et al. Cervical Disc Arthroplasty. In Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. October 2010. Vol. 18. No. 10. Pp. 631-637.

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