If you (or someone you care about) has decided to take action to address debilitating leg and back pain, you’re in the right place.
At this point, you likely already know all about total disc replacement and how it compares to disc replacement surgery. Total disc replacement (where an implant replaces the functions of both the damaged disc and the facet joints that go along with it) is the latest development in addressing leg and back pain in the lumbar spine. Just like all medical procedures, however, it works well for some people but not for others.
I’ve evaluated hundreds of patients as potential candidates for BalancedBack® and can say with certainty that the people who benefit most from the procedure have the following characteristics in common:
1. They educate themselves about their condition and treatment options.
Patients who undergo this type of disc replacement surgery take responsibility for their own health by gathering information about their condition and treatment options from lots of sources (not just their physician). Hopefully up to this point you’ve had success with your information gathering and used our Knowledge Center as a resource. In the case of BalancedBack®, which is still a fairly new procedure, it’s important that all our patients who undergo surgery understand on a basic level why they’re getting the implant and how it can help. Of course our team spends time with every patient to review all the details, but these conversations are more productive with patients who are invested in the process. Those with a good understanding of the procedure also feel more confident about expressing any concerns and asking questions.
2. They have a condition in their low back that may necessitate fusion.
The root cause of pain for BalancedBack® patients varies, but is often caused by spinal stenosis, recurrent disc herniations, subtle spondylolisthesis, or a previous failed fusion. As discussed in this article, fusion is only needed if these issues can’t be fixed by decompression surgery alone. If decompression can solve the problem, there’s no need for fusion or a total disc replacement.
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But if your doctor has recommended fusion surgery for one of the conditions above, or if your decompression surgery removes so much bone or ligament that your spine becomes unstable during surgery and requires fusion as a result, it’s likely that you’ll find relief with BalancedBack®.
3. They have healthy bones.
Patients with cancer present in the bones of the spine or who have osteoporosis or osteopenia are less likely to have success with BalancedBack®. The new implant requires six to eight weeks to integrate and bond with the surrounding bone, a process that is hindered if the bones aren’t healthy. It’s also important that the implant doesn’t shift position before it’s fully bonded; very porous bones increase the risk of abnormal settling or shifting during the bone healing recovery stage.
4. They are highly motivated to recover.
Patients who live an active lifestyle no matter their age are anxious to get back to whatever they enjoy doing the most. (In my home state of Alaska that tends to be hiking, hunting, and snowshoeing, among other things!) That means they’re motivated to follow post-surgical instructions to a T and follow through with physical therapy as prescribed.
5. They are generally healthy.
Patients who see the best results from a total disc replacement practice healthy living habits—they don’t smoke, they eat well, and, as I said above, they’re generally fairly active. (Smoking, in particular, slows down the bone healing and ingrowth process mentioned above.) They also don’t have other high-risk factors such as diabetes or obesity.
6. They have a strong support system.
All medical procedures go more smoothly if you have family and friends around you to help out. These individuals are crucial during the recovery phase and with everything leading up to the surgery, like research and scheduling details. BalancedBack® requires travel to Grand Cayman for surgery, which makes family support even more crucial (and the recovery stage more enjoyable!). The BalancedBack® team encourages all our patients to involve family and friends in the trip—and we enjoy getting to know them before and after surgery.
Are you an ideal candidate for a BalancedBack® total joint replacement?
This innovative form of disc replacement surgery isn’t right for everyone, but it might be right for you. Talk with our clinical coordinator to find out. Schedule a complimentary call today to learn about the procedure in more detail, and understand how and why it might benefit you. Consider this complimentary call the first step along your road to recovery!