Patients Holding out for Artificial Disc Surgery Instead of Traditional Fusion


Evanston, IL—August 16, 2004—

As the artificial disc nears regulatory approval for availability to the general public, more back pain sufferers are putting off the traditional route of spinal fusion surgery and waiting to have artificial disc surgery instead, according to a new poll by

The poll shows that 49% of back pain patients who are candidates for spine fusion said they are postponing fusion surgery in the hope of having artificial disc surgery instead, while only 25% said they are opting for fusion surgery. 26% said they are still weighing the pros and cons of the artificial disc versus fusion surgery. (N=461)

“This poll confirms the surprisingly high level of expectations that back pain patients have for artificial disc technology,” says Dr. Peter Ullrich, M.D., Medical Director of the NeuroSpine Center of Wisconsin and Medical Director of “But patients should know that artificial discs are not a panacea. As with the current standard of care - fusion surgery - the primary success factor for an artificial disc surgery will be making sure that the patient is the right candidate for the procedure. The indications for an artificial disc surgery will actually be very narrow, and if not followed properly, will lead to poor results,” cautions Dr. Ullrich.

Traditionally, spinal fusion surgery has been the treatment of choice for individuals who have not had success with non-surgical treatments for their chronic back pain. However, one of the primary drawbacks of a spine fusion is that it immobilizes the fused section of the back, which can lead to degeneration at the adjacent levels of the spine. To address this issue, artificial discs are designed to mimic the natural motion of the spine, which in turn should reduce the risk of adjacent level degeneration.

“I see the artificial disc as a true revolution for our patients and believe that when it’s appropriately applied it will be very beneficial,” says Dr. Stephen Hochschuler, M.D., Chairman of the Texas Back Institute and Medical Advisor for “It is still an evolving technology, however, and appropriate surgeon training for this new technology - to make sure that it is being used for the right indications and to protect our patients from over-utilization - is absolutely essential.”

Further information on artificial discs, ongoing artificial disc clinical trials, spine fusion, and a full range of back pain information can be viewed at

Stephanie Burke
Phone: 847-607-8577

About provides in-depth information and resources for patients with back pain, neck pain, and full range of spinal disorders. Written and peer-reviewed by spine specialists, the site includes thousands of pages of original articles, animations and illustrations, clinical trial listings, a spine physician directory, and an active message board.

More Resources in the Press Releases Center