Follow along as spine surgeonRobert Ryu, M.D., gives a comprehensive overview of artificial disc replacement surgery. Dr. Ryu discusses what happens during both cervical and lumbar disc replacement surgery, what to expect during recovery, and when patients typically get back to participating in the activities they enjoy pain-free!



What is an Artificial Disc Replacement (ADR)? 

 This procedure involves removing a degenerated or painful disc and replacing it with a device designed to mimic the function and motion of a healthy disc. 

Fusion vs. ADR

Spinal fusions can provide patients with a greater range of motion than hip or knee fusions because the other discs in the spine can help compensate for the decreased mobility associated with this procedure.   

How Does ADR Work? 

 The worn-out disc is removed and replaced with a device that simulates the function of a healthy disc.

What Happens During Cervical Disc Replacement Surgery? 

  • During cervical disc replacement surgery, the surgeon makes an incision along the side of the neck
  • The worn-out disc is removed using a high powered microscope, ensuring that the spinal cord and nerves are decompressed
  • The device is implanted using an intraoperative x-ray, to ensure that it is positioned appropriately
  • The incision is closed with dissolvable sutures
  • Most patients can go home the same day unless they are having multiple levels replaced


What Happens During Lumbar Disc Replacement Surgery? 

  • Your spine surgeon may work with an access surgeon, who is a trained vascular surgeon, to assist with providing access to the lumbar spine
  • The diseased disc is removed 
  • The device is implanted using an intraoperative x-ray, to ensure that it is positioned appropriately
  • Patients often spend the night in the hospital and return home the next day 


What Can You Expect Postoperatively? 

 Patients recovering from a cervical disc replacement often use a soft collar for comfort and support for one-two weeks as the incision is healing. Likewise, lumbar disc replacement patients frequently use a lumbar corset to accomplish this.

It takes two-three weeks for the soft tissue to heal and about four-six weeks for the bone to heal. However, remodeling of the bone continues over the next few months.

Patients typically begin physical therapy six weeks after surgery. Until then, it is recommended that they limit aggressive range of motion in the neck (cervical patients) or lower back (lumbar patients).

Most patients can expect to return to full activity without restrictions three months after surgery.