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Five Steps that Make for a Successful Artificial Disc Replacement

Are you considering artificial disc replacement surgery? If you’ve had ongoing pain originating from a disc in your spine and conservative treatments haven’t helped, surgery may be an option. But no one wants to go through the process of having surgery only to have it fail. So consider these important factors to help ensure your artificial disc replacement is a success.

Step 1. Determine if you are a good candidate for the procedure.

Proper patient selection is crucial for any surgical procedure, and each case should be considered individually. Just because you have disc disease doesn’t mean artificial disc replacement is right for you. At DISC we evaluate each patient and make recommendations based on some of this criteria:

  • Have pain originating from only one or two discs in the spine
  • Not have spinal instability
  • Be free of other spinal conditions, such as osteoporosis, arthritis, or infection
  • Have tried nonsurgical treatments for at least six weeks
  • Not have had major spine surgery in the past
  • Not have scoliosis or other deformities of the spine
  • Be in good health and at an appropriate weight 

2. Find a top-notch surgeon.

Spend some time doing your research. Ideally, you want to find a surgeon who not only is experienced and successful in artificial disc replacement but also performs a variety of spinal procedures. This can increase your confidence that your surgeon is considering all of your options and selecting the most appropriate solution for you.

Look for a surgeon who performs minimally invasive spine surgery. This type of surgery causes less trauma to the surrounding tissues, resulting in quicker recoveries and fewer complications.

Safety is an utmost priority. Carefully consider the facilities where your surgeon works and check out their infection rate as well. 

3. Understand how to prepare for your artificial disc replacement.

You should schedule a physical exam before your surgery to evaluate your overall health and make sure you can safely undergo the procedure. Talk to your doctor about any medications or supplements that you take. Some medications may need to be reduced or stopped prior to your surgery.

If you smoke, it’s best to quit. Smoking can impair your body’s ability to heal. It can also increase your risk of complications during surgery and post-operative infections.

Be certain you know when to stop eating and drinking ahead of your artificial disc replacement. Usually, if you are having surgery in the morning, you’ll have to refrain from food and drink after midnight.

4. Follow your discharge instructions.

After artificial disc replacement surgery, you’ll be up walking and mobile immediately. The nurses and doctors will care for you at the facility for a short period of time and then you will go home to finish your recovery. You’ll need to take it easy for the first week. Your surgeon should talk to you about how to manage any pain and how to take care of your surgical incision. Make sure you have a contact phone number for any questions or concerns that may arise after you get home.

5. Stick to your follow-up appointments and rehab schedule.

You’ll be given instructions on how to proceed in the weeks after your artificial disc replacement. About three weeks after surgery, you may start doing some non- impact exercises as part of physical therapy. Around the six-week mark, you may begin a more significant workout program. Even if you are feeling really good, it is important to stay on track and see your doctor for follow-up as indicated.

When performed on the right patient by the right provider, artificial disc replacement can significantly improve pain and aid the return to an active life. Consider each of the steps above to ensure your greatest chance of success. 


Robert S. Bray, Jr., M.D.

About the author

Robert S. Bray, Jr., M.D. Nicknamed “Dr. Fix-It” by The Red Bulletin, Robert S. Bray, Jr., M.D. makes an art of helping the world’s most elite athletes return to push the boundaries of performance. The neurological spine surgeon, recognized globally for his thorough diagnoses and pioneering minimally invasive approach, is quickly redefining sports medicine, one champion at a time. Dr. Bray founded the state-of-the-art, multi-disciplinary DISC Sports & Spine Center (DISC) in 2006 located in Los Angeles, CA. Read more articles by Robert S. Bray, Jr., M.D..

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