Over the least decade, cervical disc replacement has become a viable option for people suffering from cervical disc herniations. An artificial cervical disc is a device inserted between two cervical vertebrae into a space created by removal of the intervertebral disc. The intervertebral disc has been surgically removed in order to decompressing the spinal cord and/or a nerve root. The goal of the device is to preserve motion at the operated spinal level. It is an alternative to a cervical fusion in which bone grafts, plates and screws are used following disc removal. A fusion procedure eliminates motion at the operated disc space in the neck.
Cervical surgery to decompress the nerves and spinal cord is performed for patients with cervical disc herniation that have not responded to non-surgical treatment options and are significantly affecting the individuals' quality of life and ability to function. Symptoms include: arm pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, weakness, numbness, and clumsiness.
There are a number of devices that are offered on the market. They vary in terms of material and biomechanics.
The most common design involves two metal plates separated by a plastic piece- a low friction polymer. This is analogous to a knee replacement design. Currently two different polymers are being evaluated:
Metal and Polyethylene devices: These are the same materials that are used for total hip and knee arthroplasties, and have been shown to have no ill effects on the body in long term studies.
Metal and Polyurethane device: This comprises application of a softer polymer intended to provide not only motion, but also shock absorbing capabilities which are felt to closer mimic the motion of a human disc.