AUSTIN, Texas, Feb. 10, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — If you’ve been told you have a herniated disc, you probably have been told you need a spinal fusion, which has been the Gold Standard treatment for herniated discs in the neck for decades. That’s all changed now, however, as new artificial disc technology has emerged over the last five years making artificial discs the new Gold Standard treatment for disc herniations in the neck. The burden, however, is on the patient to fully research the most advanced treatment for their neck problem. Otherwise, they may be receiving a treatment that causes additional herniations.
“That advice for a spinal fusion — especially in the neck — may no longer apply,” says Eeric Truumees, MD, a fellowship-trained spine surgeon at Texas Spine and Scoliosis in Austin, Texas, and 2021 president of the North American Spine Society, the largest international group of spine specialists. “The most current spine research from NASS has shown that artificial disc replacement can reduce the need for additional surgery at other levels in the neck,” explains Dr. Truumees, also a former editor of the NASS Spine Research Journal.
“The traditional treatment for herniated discs has been spinal fusion, but with spinal fusion, you are locking two vertebrae together,” Dr. Truumees explains. “Research has shown that fusion puts extra stress on the discs above and below which can herniate those discs as well. The new research documents that with an artificial disc, you are preserving motion which lessens the risk to other disc levels. This is especially important in the neck as you only have six disc levels to enable the neck to rotate.”
Dr. Truumees is featured in the educational website CentersForArtificialDisc.com. Those with back and neck problems can now download a free 20-page Patient Guide that outlines in detail when a person should consider artificial disc replacement and the red flag symptoms for when to see a doctor for herniated disc symptoms to prevent permanent and lifelong weakness or numbness in a hand or foot.
Artificial disc surgery — also referred to as motion preservation surgery — has rapidly evolved with new implants that replicate the rotation and shock absorption function of the healthy disc, according to Dr. James Lynch, a triple fellowship-trained spine surgeon at The Swift Institute, one of the largest spine specialty centers in the world. “Sadly, the patient may receive a dated treatment because a surgeon isn’t trained in artificial disc replacement,” explains Dr. Lynch, who was one of the first spine surgeons in Nevada to be trained in artificial disc replacement surgery. “Too many spine surgeons continue to recommend fusion and never discuss artificial discs as an option. Those people with arthritic knees and hips all get artificial joints. It’s unthinkable today that surgeons would recommend fusing a knee or hip, which was the old-style treatment back in the 1930s.”
Recognizing that some spine surgeons bias the information in their web sites to their own capabilities and preferences, CentersforArtificialDisc.com was created to provide a balance and unbiased source of information to patients. The free 20-page Patient Guide explains the limitations of spinal fusion and how spine care is evolving. The Patient Guide also explains not everybody qualifies for an artificial disc. Disc replacement in the low back, for example, is more complex and lumbar disc technology is still evolving. The Patient Guide PDF can be downloaded free at CentersforArtificialDisc.com. The guide lists the artificial discs approved by the FDA and which ones are approved for use at two levels in the neck.
“The burden is on the patient to become well informed about their treatment options, and to research a second opinion when they are told they need spine surgery,” adds Dr. Lynch. “It takes extensive training and experience to implant an artificial disc or perform minimally invasive spine surgery, and a relatively small percent of spine surgeons are proficient in that. If you live outside a large metro area, you may have to travel for the most advanced spine care.”