Artificial cervical disc replacement is a spine surgery to replace a degenerated (deteriorated) disc in the neck with an artificial disc. Disc degeneration reduces the height of the disc and may cause a herniated disc. Herniated disc refers to a condition in which the inner central portion (nucleus pulposus) of the spinal disc is forced out through a tear in the outer, fibrous ring (annulus fibrosus) of an intervertebral disc. Herniated disc is also called bulging disc, ruptured disc or slipped disc. Disc herniation causes compression of the spinal cord and/or spinal nerves. Spinal cord compression can cause pain in the arm and legs. In rare cases, it can lead to permanent damage and even paralysis.
An artificial disc, similar to the natural healthy disc is used to replace the degenerated disc. It restores the height between the two cervical vertebrae, enlarging the neural foramen (nerve passageway in the spine) and relieving the pressure on the spinal nerves. This stabilizes the cervical spine and restores normal mobility of the neck.
For the procedure, the cervical spine is approached through an incision in the front of the neck. The affected disc is identified with the help of imaging studies and removed. The artificial disc is then placed precisely in the disc space between the vertebrae. After checking the range of motion of the neck and confirming proper fit of the artificial disc, the incision is sutured closed.
As with any surgery, artificial cervical disc replacement may be associated with certain complications which include infection, bleeding and nerve injury causing temporary hoarseness of the voice and difficulty in swallowing.