If you’re considering back surgery to alleviate back or leg pain, among your most significant concerns is probably this: As a result of surgery, will I be able to return to and enjoy the activities I love—without pain and with the ability to move freely?
For a small number of patients, the answer lies in artificial disc replacement surgery, a procedure that is traditionally performed using an anterior approach (through the abdomen). But for a large number of patients there’s now another alternative: a total joint replacement called BalancedBack®, which is performed using a safer posterior approach. A posterior approach has certain advantages over anterior, as do the surgical procedures themselves for many patients. Let’s take a closer look at what each one entails:
Want to know more about BalancedBack® Total Joint Replacement? Download this free brochure to learn about restoration of spinal health and movement, and whether it may be right for you.
Anterior Disc Replacement Surgery
Your spine is made up of a series of stacked vertebrae that support your body and enable movement; each of those vertebrae contain a disc and two facet joints. Individual discs may become worn down over time, which can cause pain. Or, in some cases, other disc-specific issues cause problems—like a herniated disc or an annular tear—making it necessary to address the condition to ease discomfort.
Artificial disc replacement surgery addresses those issues by replacing a degenerated or worn-out disc with a new, artificial one. Only the disc itself is replaced—not the facet joints.
Advantages of anterior disc replacement surgery:
- It alleviates the pain associated with the problematic disc.
- It enables patients to retain full range of movement because the facet joints remain intact (as opposed to fusion surgery, which eliminates the joint completely). Retaining movement also protects the adjacent motion units (above and below the surgical location) from additional stress that would have been placed on them had the joint been removed and fused.
- It can be a good solution for isolated disc problems if the related facet joints are healthy at the time of surgery.
Disadvantages of anterior disc replacement surgery:
- It only replaces a damaged disc, which means patients with arthritis will still experience back pain, and patients with leg pain from stenosis probably won’t benefit from disc replacement surgery at all. If anything else is contributing to the pain—such as a pinched nerve or worn facet joints—a new disc only solves part of the problem. And even if your facets are in good shape today, there’s a chance you’ll have pain associated with degenerating facet joints at some point down the line.
- It requires surgeons to work around vital internal structures—the bladder, kidneys, ureters, part of the colon, and some major blood vessels—to reach the damaged disc. It’s possible to damage these organs during surgery, which could result in additional surgery or a prolonged hospital stay.
- It is difficult to perform revision surgery should another new disc (or anything else) be required. The scarring as a result of the initial surgery, particularly to the aorta and vena cava great vessels, makes it difficult for even the most experienced surgeons to perform a follow-up or future surgery successfully.
Posterior BalancedBack® Total Joint Replacement
With a BalancedBack® total joint replacement, surgeons replace both the damaged, painful disc and its facet joints with a total joint implant using a posterior approach (from the back).
Advantages of posterior BalancedBack® Total Joint Replacement:
- It alleviates the pain associated with a problematic disc, just like an anterior disc replacement. And BalancedBack® also allows the surgeon to address back pain from arthritic or degenerated facet joints, which in many patients is the major source of back pain.
- It can address not only a problematic disc but also a broad range of other problems—such as pinched nerves, spinal stenosis, or arthritis in the facet joints—because it uses a posterior approach. As a result, a BalancedBack® total joint replacement may be appropriate for over 50 percent of potential patients as opposed to just five percent for artificial disc replacement surgery. Simply put, BalancedBack® total joint replacement addresses leg and back pain—something not possible with anterior disc replacement.
- It enables patients to retain full range of movement because, just like a hip or knee prosthesis, it replaces the total joint and allows it to keep on moving. This type of joint replacement procedure helps replicate your natural range of movement and spinal balance, while minimizing stress on adjacent motion levels.
What type of surgery will best enable you to return to the activities you love?
That’s a decision for you and your doctor to make together. If you’d like to find out more about the BalancedBack® total joint replacement procedure, visit our website or schedule a complimentary call with our clinical coordinator. Getting the information you need is the first step on the path to recovery.