As we age, our intervertebral discs lose water content and become less able to hold the loads applied to them. This aging process is normal, but in some it can cause back or leg symptoms due to loss of disc height and nerve impingement. Many people suffer from a compromised quality of life due to disc degeneration.
Spinal surgery can reduce motion between the vertebrae, adjust alignment, and restore proper disc height, alleviating pain. During the procedure, the surgeon removes most of the disc between the two vertebrae that are to be stabilized and implants a spacer to restore correct spinal alignment. The surgeon also stabilizes the vertebrae with screws and rods or plates. In addition, bone-forming cells are implanted to bridge the space between the vertebrae and help the bones to grow together. Increased stability and restoration of disc height often result in significant pain relief.
Disc replacement surgery has similar goals with restoring proper disc height and creating space for the nerves but also preserves motion of the disc. To be a candidate for disc replacement, there must not be any advanced degeneration of instability of the spine such as spondylolisthesis or scoliosis.