A cervical arthroplasty is a disk replacement procedure to remove and replace problem discs in your neck. This is an alternative procedure to the ACDF, where instead of a fusion of bone graft, an artificial disc is used. Both types of surgery require a discectomy. This is the removal of the damaged disc to allow the decompression of the nerves and spinal cord to give you relief from your symptoms. After the discectomy has been performed there is a choice between using either a disc replacement or a fusion device to reconstruct your cervical spine.
If you have significant wear and tear in your neck and the natural movement has already been lost, if there is structural instability in your neck, or if the spinal cord has been damaged by being severely compressed then you should have a fusion. If you have a cervical disc prolapse, then you have a choice. It is important to remember that when treating a cervical disc prolapse both operations are good operations. The problem with fusing a disc is that the movement from that disc is transferred to the discs above and below. In theory, this can result in an increased rate of disc degeneration in these adjacent discs. Cervical disc replacements are now being increasingly used to treat cervical disc prolapses.
A cervical artificial disc is a prosthetic device designed to maintain motion in the treated vertebral segment. The cervical artificial disc essentially functions like a joint, allowing for flexion, extension, side bending and rotation. The surgery is performed in the same manner as an ACDF procedure, but instead of inserting a spacer bone graft, an artificial disc will be inserted between the vertebrae.
After the procedure, you may be released to go home the same day or may stay overnight for monitoring. Typically you won’t need to stay any longer than one night and should be able to return home relatively soon. A cervical collar or brace is sometimes worn during recovery to provide support and limit motion while your neck heals. Exercises may be prescribed to help you regain full motion and to facilitate healing.