If you’ve done your homework (and I’m guessing you have), you’ve more than likely come across the M6 artificial disc as a potential option for alleviating back pain. But you might still be unclear about what differentiates an M6 disc replacement from traditional artificial disc replacement (ADR) surgery, and why it’s touted as “next-generation” technology. Keep reading for a clear explanation of the M6 and how it compares to ADR and the latest artificial disc innovation—BalancedBack®.
What is the M6 artificial disc?
Spinal Kinetics’ M6-L (the “L” stands for “lumbar”) is an artificial disc with a hard plastic center made of polyurethane. That polyurethane center makes the disc compressible—similar to a real, natural disc—and capable of shock absorption. Traditional artificial discs have polyethylene cores (which glide back and forth to accommodate motion), but they aren’t compressible.
Aside from the compressibility of the disc, the M6 is the same as ADR in every other way. They both alleviate the pain associated with a problematic disc, and enable patients to retain full range of movement. But the M6, like ADR, also has some disadvantages:
- It is strictly used to address disc-specific issues that are causing pain, such as a herniated disc or an annular tear. But most of the time, people who have a compromised disc also have other spinal problems, like spinal stenosis, pinched nerves, or worn-out facet joints. In those cases, simply replacing a disc would not resolve a patient’s back pain. That means both M6 and traditional ADR only relieve pain for a very small percentage of people (only about 2 percent to 5 percent of patients).
- It uses an anterior (through the stomach) approach. That’s riskier than a posterior approach (through the back) because the disc replacement surgeon must navigate major blood vessels in the stomach area to reach the spine. This approach presents an even greater challenge should a patient later need revision surgery to address another worn-out disc or arthritic facet joints.
As you might have guessed, it’s the compressibility of the M6 that makes it so popular. But the truth is, while there’s no disputing the fact that the M6-L artificial disc’s compressibility mimics natural physiologic motion, there is reason to question the significance of this feature. No one really knows what advantage, if any, compressibility offers, even in a natural disc: Does it contribute to pain relief? Or does it simply help to transfer the mechanical load from one bone to the next more evenly? This particular characteristic has never been connected to any clinical benefits. To date, there’s been no published data showing that the M6 gives patients any advantage over any other type of artificial disc technology. Despite the lack of clinical data, however, the M6 continues to be the #1-selling ADR in Europe.
Make an informed decision about your treatment for back pain—download this free brochure on the traditional surgical options and the conditions they are intended to treat.
M6 Disc Replacement Vs. BalancedBack®
The BalancedBack® Total Joint Replacement is the newest innovation in artificial disc technology: an implant that replaces the function of a complete spinal joint, facets included—not just the disc. The metal ball and socket help patients retain full range of motion, just like a natural disc; and worn-out facet joints are also removed and their functions taken up by the device. As a result, patients can move naturally after surgery—bending, twisting, sitting, standing, and slumping. Keeping all your joints in good working condition is also important because they can continue to share the mechanical load of movement, preventing the rapid degeneration of joints that take on an increased amount of stress.
Another advantage of BalancedBack® is that it uses a posterior approach (through the back) to implant the device. Not only is there much less risk of damaging vital structures with this approach, but it also enables surgeons to address pain arising from a broad range of other problems, like arthritic facet joints, pinched nerves, and spinal stenosis. As a result, BalancedBack® addresses both back and leg pain, and may be appropriate for over 50 percent of potential patients.
Do you have further questions about BalancedBack® as it compares to M6 disc replacement and ADR? Talk to us, or download this brochure to learn more about Total Joint Replacement and how it might help you get back to doing the things you love.