Disc replacement for a symptomatic disc in the neck is starting to become more commonplace and is now considered a mainstream surgical alternative to ACDF, the traditional surgical option for cervical disc disease.
Learn more: Cervical Degenerative Disc Disease
When considering cervical artificial discs, here are 6 things that are helpful for you to know:
- Clinical trials usually show that, when compared to ACDF, cervical artificial disc surgery results in fewer overall complications, quicker return to work, and less chance of developing adjacent segment degeneration (which could in turn mean another surgery in the future).
- A number of clinical trials for cervical artificial discs have consistently demonstrated safety and effectiveness that is at least comparable to ACDF; however, for most cervical discs the FDA has not concluded that the surgery is superior to ACDF.
- At present, insurance in the US will often cover this surgery, but not always, so you may want to check with your insurance carrier. If you need to pay for it yourself, the surgery will typically cost about $35,000. The alternative, ACDF, is usually covered by insurance.
- Some surgeons are now starting to offer cervical disc replacement in an ambulatory surgery center (ASC), rather than in a hospital. In this case, the procedure costs much less—in fact, it can cost up to 80% less in an outpatient ASC than inpatient hospital setting. However, there are trade-offs with using an outpatient setting for the surgery, and this option is not available to all patients.
- The single biggest unknown—and therefore potential risk—with cervical artificial discs is that long-term results are not yet known. Some types of disc implants have been in use for up to 7 years in the US, and so far results are considered generally favorable and no large unknown risks have cropped up.
- In 2013, the first technology was approved for a 2-level cervical artificial disc replacement. In clinical trials, the Mobi-C cervical artificial disc was found to have superior results to a 2-level ACDF.
The bottom line is that there are a lot of variables to consider when thinking about surgery for symptomatic neck pathology with arm pain. New developments are occurring all the time, and getting educated on your options for treatment will help you make a decision that is right for you.