Lose the pain – gain mobility in your neck
What if you couldn't bend your head down to look at a
new pair of shoes or turn it to watch your child play?
Your neck, with its ability to twist, turn, bend and tilt is
part of an amazing piece of architecture called the spinal
column: 33 vertebrae and discs that extend from the base
of the skull to the pelvis.
When the cushiony discs sandwiched between each vertebra
in the neck deteriorate due to disease or injury, it is
called cervical spine degenerative disc disease (DDD).
Joan O'Shea, MD, Virtua spine surgeon and neurosurgeon,
describes it: "Symptoms like pain that radiates into
one or both arms, or a weakness in the arms, could mean
a neck disc is pressing against spinal nerves." She adds
that pressure on the spinal cord could cause paralysis.
Dr. O'Shea corrects the problem by replacing
the entire diseased disk with an artificial cervical spinal
disc - the most advanced technology available. The procedure
is appropriate for younger patients with good bone
structure who need only one disc replaced. This approach
gives patients a more natural range of motion at the level
where the diseased disc was originally located.
Surgeons used to correct severe DDD with a spinal
fusion. The procedure would remove the diseased disc and
fuse the adjacent two vertebrae with metal plates and
Today, artificial disc replacement usually takes about
90 minutes and is performed through a one-inch incision.
Once the diseased disc is removed, the artificial disc is
secured into place.
"Throughout the procedure, I monitor nerve messages
from the brain as they travel down the spinal cord," says
Dr. O'Shea. "This extra step provides the utmost safety for
patients, which is critical when I work near the spinal
cord." Patients are usually up and walking the day of surgery,
and most drive within one week.
Still, not everyone is a candidate for this procedure.
"It's important to first exhaust all conservative treatment
methods such anti-inflammatory medications or epidural
steroid injections," she says. Your surgeon is best qualified
to help make a decision about whether a spinal fusion or
artificial disc replacement is best for you.
Virtua's Spine Program is part of its Musculoskeletal
Institute, which offers a complete continuum of care for
all spine, orthopaedic and sports medicine problems.