AUSTIN, Texas, June 24, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — If you’ve been told you have a herniated disc, you may have also been told you need a spinal fusion, which up to recently has been the traditional treatment for herniated discs. However, that advice for a spinal fusion — especially in the neck — may no longer apply, according to Eeric Truumees, MD, a fellowship-trained spine specialist at Texas Spine and Scoliosis in Austin, Texas, who is featured in the educational website CentersForArtificialDisc.com. Now those with back and neck problems can 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 weakness or numbness in a hand or foot.
Dr. Eeric Truumees is the president of the North American Spine Society (NASS), the world’s largest association of spine physicians, and has been the editor of the NASS Spine Journal. “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. “The traditional treatment for herniated discs has been spinal fusion. But with spinal fusion, you are locking two vertebrae together. 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 preserve motion.”
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. Michael X. Rohan, Jr., a fellowship-trained spine surgeon at Northwest Florida Spine who is proficient in artificial disc surgery and robotic spine surgery, too many spine surgeons continue to recommend fusion and never discuss artificial discs as an option. “Those people with arthritic knees and hips now routinely have artificial joints,” explains Dr. Rohan, Jr. “It’s unthinkable today that surgeons would recommend fusing a knee or hip, which was the old-style treatment back in the 1930s and 1940s. We are at the same place with spine where new implant technology offers new alternatives to patients with herniated discs.”
Recognizing that some spine surgeons bias the information in their web sites to their own capabilities and preferences, CentersforArtificialDisc.com was created to provide an 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 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. Truumees. “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.”