Your neck, or cervical spine, is a very delicate area of your body, housing 7 vertebral segments separated by discs, and supported by muscles and ligaments. It contains the spinal cord, which sends messages from your brain to the rest of your body.
Seemingly minor problems in the cervical spine, such as a cervical herniated disc, can cause arm pain, numbness, and weakness.
If conservative treatment fails to bring relief, cervical disc replacement surgery can replace the damaged spinal disc with an artificial implant.
To help you understand the process for a disc replacement, we have a step-by-step Cervical Disc Replacement Surgery Video. The following are some of the highlights from that video.
Walk-Through of the Procedure
Each segment of the spine has a label. The segment highlighted in purple above is called the C6-C7 level. Damage to cervical discs is most likely to occur at this level and the 2 above it: the C4-C5 and at the C5-C6.
Damage to the cervical discs may occur as a result of a herniated disc or bone spurs (osteophytes). Both of these conditions can cause tissue to put pressure on the nerve roots.
To begin the procedure, your surgeon will make a 1- to 2-inch incision in the front of your neck. Next, your surgeon will cut and move aside the thin platysma muscle, shown here in purple, which lies just beneath the skin.
Preparing the Disc Space
Once the vertebrae are exposed, your surgeon will cut the annulus fibrosus, or outer coating of the disc in order to remove the soft inner core of the damaged disc, called the nucleus pulposus.
A small portion of the damaged disc may be left intact.
Your surgeon will then restore the disc space between the vertebrae to its normal height, making room for the new artificial disc.
X-ray guidance will help your surgeon insert the artificial disc into the disc space. There are many different types of commercially designed discs and materials from which to choose.
You will likely be able to leave the hospital 1 or 2 days after the procedure, and soon, you will be back to your normal activities.