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For back, neck pain, artificial disc replacement has cost, outcome advantages over fusion surgery
Date:3/22/2011

used on 53 patients suffering from three-level, lower back disc disease and looked at cost comparisons for length of hospital stay, resources used and other factors.

Discs act as cushions between the bones (vertebrae) of the spine. When healthy, the discs have enough "give" to allow the back to be flexible but are firm enough to provide stability. With age or injury, they lose their pliability and density. Nerves may become pinched between the bones, causing pain not just in the spine but in other parts of the body.

Fusion surgery seeks to relieve symptoms of the degenerative disease by removing the damaged disc and replacing it with bone. Studies show this procedure often can be effective but there can be drawbacks: in some cases, fused spinal sections can lose flexibility, impeding normal movement and stressing adjacent discs, often leading later to more fusion surgery. Artificial disc replacement, which has been performed in the United States since 2000, tends to cause less tissue injury than fusion surgery, and the discs are designed to maintain natural spine movement and reduce need for follow-up surgery.

In their study of patients suffering neck (cervical) disc disease, Delamarter and his colleagues found both disc replacement and fusion surgery acceptable options providing good long-term outcomes. But four years out from surgery, fusion patients were four times more likely to need more surgery. Half of these secondary operations were needed to treat new disc problems occurring adjacent to fused sections.

Patients in the study had imaging scans to measure before-and-after flexibility and range of motion; were evaluated for physical and neurological improvement; and completed self-assessment questionnaires on neck disability, neck and arm pain intensity. Improvements were seen in all categories, regardless of the surgical procedure, but results tended to be at least slightly better in patients with disc replacements.


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Contact: Simi Singer
simi.singer@cshs.org
310-435-9435
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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