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Fusion Vs. Disc Replacement: What You Need to Know

Wear and tear on the discs between your spinal bones, or vertebrae, is known as degenerative disc disease. Common conditions caused by disc degeneration, as well as slipped discs, include spondylotic myelopathy and stenosis. These conditions involve a compression of the spinal canal that puts pressure on the spinal cord.

Sometimes, these spinal conditions can be treated with nonsurgical solutions; however, if the damage is significant, surgery may be the best option for some patients. The primary surgical solutions are spinal fusion surgery and artificial disc replacement surgery.

Fusion Surgery:
During a spinal fusion procedure, vertebrae are surgically fused together with specialized components to limit movement. In cases of disc degeneration, this is completed after removing cervical discs through a discectomy surgery.

The fused vertebrae relieve compression on the nerves and spinal cord to eliminate pain and other nerve-related symptoms, like tingling and numbness in the extremities. Spinal fusion works primarily by limiting movement in the affected section of the spine.

Artificial Disc Replacement:
This involves total disc replacement of the affected discs in the spine. As with certain spinal fusion procedures, the damaged spinal discs are removed. However, instead of fusing the vertebrae together, artificial discs are placed between the vertebrae.

Disc replacement is mainly performed on the neck, or cervical, discs due to the advancement of cervical artificial disc design and implementation. Typical outcomes include reduced pain and nerve-related symptoms as well as restored mobility in the affected section of the spine.

If you are experiencing chronic pain in your neck or back and want to learn about your options, contact our spine doctors at BoulderCentre for Orthopedics & Spine. Call 303.449.2730 or schedule an appointment online and get a one-on-one consultation with one of our specialty-trained doctors.