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Lumbar Artificial Disc Replacement: Case Study

February 12, 2013 in Article, Low-Back Pain, Operative Care,
Posted by Virginia Spine Institute


Everyone will have some back pain at some point in their lives; after all it is the second most common reason for medical visits.  Most adults will have brief episodes that resolve with a little rest and exercise.  The vast majority of patients that have ongoing pain will have improvement without surgery.  Often physical therapy, medications, and, at times, selective injections can help manage the pain. However, a small group of patients will continue to have significant pain that limit their lives. Having failed non-operative, conservative treatment, their only option is operative treatment. For a select group, an artificial disc will be a desirable option for their treatment.

Who Is Considered a Good Candidate For Disc Replacement:
  • Lower back pain thought to be caused by one or two intervertebral discs in the lumbar spine
  • No significant facet joint disease or bony compression
  • Within healthy weight range
  • No previous major surgery in the lumbar spine
  • No abnormality of the spine

Case Study:

Prior to her surgery, my patient had severe lower back pain and could not work or do most of the things she wanted to do.  She could not sit for more than 15 to 20 minutes. Her x-rays did not reveal any severe arthritis or any deformities. It turns out she had one bad disc in her lower back in the lumbar region of the spine. After surgery, even in the recovery room, she could tell a big difference.  Her severe back pain was gone.  She reported some soreness from surgery, but that was about it.  Just three weeks post-operation, she was feeling much better.  She was up walking and getting ready to return to work. She was actually smiling, she felt so good. She started physical therapy to regain some strength she lost over the last few months when she was hurting so much that she could not get up and move. For this patient, an artificial lumbar disc replacement was the best treatment option for her; she was able to get her life back.

In the right patient, an artificial disc replacement is a great treatment option; the device is modular, so the surgeon can tailor the device to the patient’s distinctive anatomic requirements.  It is very important to meet the appropriate criteria in order to have the best results.  Not everyone is a candidate for the artificial disc.  But, for the right patient, it could be the best treatment of their life.

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