Experiencing Neck or Back Pain? 5 Reasons You May be a Candidate for Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery

If you have been told you need a fusion, it may be worth investigating the advantages of Artificial Disc Replacement—motion preservation and a reduced likelihood for future surgery topping the list. Surgeons at The Center for Disc Replacement at Texas Health Center for Diagnostics & Surgery are sought-after experts in ADR, an FDA-approved, life-changing procedure. It is led by internationally recognized spine surgeons, Drs. Scott Blumenthal, Richard Guyer, Jack Zigler, and Jessica Shellock. Beginning in 2000 with the first-ever ADR surgery performed in the United States, they have performed more than 4,200 artificial disc replacement procedures with 14 different types of ADR devices. In addition to lecturing worldwide about artificial disc replacement surgery, they have authored and published numerous articles on the subject, and they fellowship train other surgeons from around the world.

Dr. Jessica Shellock

ADR is a type of arthroplasty used to treat chronic, severe back and neck pain. It is a surgical procedure in which degenerated intervertebral discs or damaged discs in the spinal column are replaced with artificial devices in the lumbar (lower back) or cervical (neck) spine. This procedure helps to stabilize the spine while maintaining a natural range of motion. Maintaining the natural range of motion prevents excessive stress on adjacent discs; this, in turn, lowers the risk of accelerated “wear and tear” over time that may lead to additional surgeries. The artificial disc allows for flexion, extension, and rotation through the device, therefore preserving the spine’s normal range of motion and flexibility.

Are you a candidate for Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery? Here, Dr. Shellock explains why it may be an option to consider. 

1. You have neck pain with arm pain or back pain with leg pain.

Patients should be informed about all their treatment options when they are experiencing neck or back pain. Some pain is mechanical pain, and some is nerve pain. People who have combination pain—neck and arm pain or back and leg pain—can benefit from Artificial Disc Replacement because it will address both. A combination of symptoms usually lends itself to an operation that more wholly addresses the entire issue.”

2. You have been told you have a degenerative, herniated, or ruptured disc.

“An MRI is going to be the diagnostic test to determine whether you have a degenerative, herniated, or ruptured disc—or if you have pinched nerves. I usually order a CT scan as well, especially for patients who have had previous surgery, so we can see how much bone was taken away This allows me to ensure that there is a stable platform to safely implant an artificial disc.”

3. You have had a laminectomy or discectomy and the pain has returned.

“If conservative care, such as physical therapy or injections, has failed, you may be a candidate for Artificial Disc Replacement surgery. Or, if you have had disc surgery, but the pain has returned, you may be a candidate.  It’s worth getting an opinion from an experienced artificial disc replacement surgeon to learn why it could be a better overall option that can keep you from having further surgeries.”

4. You were told you need a spinal fusion.

“Make sure you get a second opinion. Spinal fusion is indicated in many circumstances. It is a good operation, and patients can do well, but I think in most cases, patients would prefer ADR over fusion. The problem is that not all doctors talk to their patients about ADR as an option. Some surgeons don’t do it at all, and some do them infrequently. If you have been told you need a spinal infusion, there is a reasonable chance you are a good candidate.”

5. If you want to return to an active life faster, and range of motion matters.

“This comes into play with professional athletes or those who are athletic just for fun or for their health. There is a faster recovery with ADR compared to fusion. Some of our patients are firefighters, police officers, and ex-military—jobs where a range of motion is critical. They can’t be out of their jobs for a year recovering from fusion surgery. In comparison, return to full activities after ADR is only three months. People can’t afford to not do their jobs for nine months or more. Personal, work and quality of life considerations come into play when determining which surgery is right for you.”


Interested in learning more about real-life testimonials for ADR? Check out this blog to read more about how ADR got this veteran back to his family.

To determine if you are a candidate for ADR, or to learn more about the procedure, visit The Center for Disc Replacement website. The Center for Disc Replacement is recognized as a center of excellence for ADR and is well-known throughout the country and the world for its successful outcomes. To accommodate patients who travel for care, the Center offers a complimentary screening process to review medical records and determine who may be a candidate.

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