Between Disc Replacement and Spinal Fusion

Back pain is one of the most common health problems people have to face at one point or another in their lives. It is estimated that about 75% of the world’s population will experience lower-back pain at one point in their lives. While most people use different types of medications to alleviate their pain, some need to get under the knife to get rid of their back complications. Back surgery is considered to be a big deal as it is not only very complex, but can also take a minimum of 3 to 4 hours or more to complete. It is only recommended if a person finds it difficult to perform daily tasks and has chronic pain despite getting non-invasive treatment.

There are two types of back surgeries that your doctor may prescribe, namely – artificial disc replacement (ADR) and spinal fusion. While both are advanced ways of treating back pain, both have their own disadvantages. Although you will be given a thorough explanation on both those types of surgeries and the decision of opting for any one of them will lie with you – it is still very important to listen to what your doctor has to say.

Artificial disc replacement requires the damaged or worn disc between the bones in the spine to be replaced with an artificial or synthetic disc. This relieves back pain and enables the patient to get back to his or her daily routine only after a couple of days’ rest.

In order to replace your problematic disc, the surgeon would reach your lower back from the front as this would allow the surgeon to access your spine by moving the blood vessels to the sides, taking caution as to not offset vital and sensitive nerves. This procedure would require more than one surgeon and would take about a minimum of 2-3 hours. Before the surgery, the doctors would have to do a number of x-rays and determine exactly which disc has to be removed. Once the anesthesia puts the patient to sleep, the doctors would remove the disc and insert an artificial one.

On the other hand, spinal fusion does not require any external/artificial bone or disc. In fact, it involves a “welding” process. A joint is welded between the most painful vertebrae – which become a single bone after the patient suffering from back pain has recovered and the bone has healed.

Spinal fusion can be done using different techniques. Your surgeon can approach the vertebrae from wherever it is most suitable. He/she can cut through the patient’s front, back or even both depending on the condition and requirements. This surgery might take up to 5 hours.

It is strenuous to decide which surgery to go for as there are so many factors involved. A number of cases have been reported where patients who chose spinal fusion still experienced back pain. While this might be the outcome of a poor after-surgery care, some say spinal fusion tends to fail most of the time.

There have been very few cases reported about failed disc replacement surgeries and most people who have already gone through this surgery say this has actually improved their back pain and allowed them to get back to their normal lifestyle. At the end of da the best option depends on the specific condition of one’s back. Consulting with an orthopaedic spine surgeon is recommended prior to deciding which treatment to choose.

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