The cervical spine is made up of seven small bones which are known as cervical vertebrae. The cervical vertebrae are stacked on top of each other thereby forming the neck area. The cushions that lie between the cervical vertebrae are called the cervical disks, and act as shock absorbers for the neck to move freely.
The cervical spine also has a protective tunnel that the upper part of the spinal cord passes through. This is the part of the spinal cord that contains the spinal nerves which supply the upper body with movement and sensation.
When the space between the cervical vertebrae becomes too small, part of the cervical disc or the vertebrae can press on the spinal nerves or spinal cord, which can lead to weakness, pain or numbness. When these symptoms fail to respond to nonsurgical treatments, Cervical disc arthroplasty surgery may be recommended.
What is Cervical Disc Arthroplasty?
Cervical disc arthroplasty also known as cervical artificial disc replacement, is a surgical procedure done to replace a deteriorated or damaged intervertebral disc with an artificial disc (implant) which is specifically designed to preserve motion in the neck.
Cervical disc arthroplasty is a surgery that is performed on the neck (cervical spine) to treat various conditions that are caused by cervical disc herniation (prolapse) and preserve motion. The conditions include cervical radiculopathy and arm brachialgia (nerve pain in the arm).
Cervical disc replacement is typically done so as to avoid fusing a level of the spine hence preserving motion and neck movements as well as preventing degeneration to the other spinal levels. The procedure also aims at relieving pain caused by compressed nerves in the cervical spine.
Cervical disc arthroplasty is similar to Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF), with the difference being instead of fusing the adjacent vertebrae, a motion preserving artificial disc or implant is inserted into the disc space.
Why One May Need a Cervical Disc Arthroplasty Procedure
A Cervical Disc Arthroplasty procedure may be considered if the patient’s cervical disks are damaged or worn out due to genetics, ageing, or normal wear and tear, hence leading to pain, muscle numbness, weakness, lack of coordination, and muscle spasms.
During the cervical disc arthroplasty surgery, a one to two-inch surgical cut or incision is made on the front or side of the neck. The surgeon carefully moves the structures of the neck until the bones of the vertebrae and the cervical disc are visible. He/she removes the cervical disc that is being replaced. The implant or artificial disc is then secured into the empty disc space. The incision is finally closed with absorbable sutures (stitches) under the skin. To minimize scarring the skin is carefully closed with sutures. Dressing is applied over the incision and a soft collar may be put on the neck to restrict motion.
The procedure is well tolerated by most patients and relieves the symptoms of nerve compression by a great percentage. The patient can go home in 1-2 days following the surgery.
During the recovery, the patient can experience the following symptoms, but they improve in 1-4 weeks’ time:
- Neck pain
- Tingling or pins and needles in the arm or hand
- Pain between the shoulder blades
- Sore throat
- A change in the patient’s voice due to stretching of the nerve that goes to the voice box
- Difficulty swallowing.
The symptoms can be controlled with simple analgesia. During the recovery period, the patient should avoid heavy lifting, excessive physical exertion and contact sport for about 6-12 weeks following the surgery.
At King’s College Hospital Dubai, we focus on offering an exemplary service, from initial consultation through to final diagnosis and treatment and beyond. Our multidisciplinary team of expert doctors, nurses, physio therapists are here to offer tailored management and treatment of your condition, and to answer any questions that you might have throughout your time with us. Whatever you need us for, we’re only a phone-call away.
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