Michael Brady had a BalancedBack® Total Joint Replacement in his 60s as an alternative to fusion.
Are you in your 50s or 60s and considering total disc replacement (also called artificial disc replacement) to relieve back pain? Unfortunately, for most people over the age of 45, disc replacement surgery won’t produce the results you expect. In this article we’ll tell you why that’s the case, and discuss the alternatives for treatment: BalancedBack® Total Joint Replacement or fusion.
Total Disc Replacement: Why It Likely Won’t Work In Your 50s and 60s
If you have severe back pain that can’t be resolved without surgery, you may think total disc replacement is one of your primary options for treatment. While that may be true for some people under the age of 45, that’s generally not the case for patients in their fifties and sixties. (Even for most patients under 45, artificial disc replacement is not always the ideal choice—here’s why.)
Disc replacement surgery does one thing only: It replaces a damaged disc with an artificial one. For older patients, that approach simply doesn’t go far enough to address the source (or sources) of their pain—which may be caused by multiple conditions. The spine of someone this age is likely facing the following challenges to varying degrees:
- Degenerating and collapsing discs
- Reduced disc space between vertebrae as a result of collapsing discs
- Arthritic facet joints
- Nerve compression
- Spine stability issues for those who have already had one or more discectomies
Replacing a degenerating disc addresses only the first two challenges. But because pinched nerves and facet joint arthritis are also very common causes of back pain (the latter particularly among older adults), it’s highly likely you’ll still have pain even after disc replacement surgery.
Other than total disc replacement, what are your treatment options?
The only two options that address all five conditions above are fusion or BalancedBack® Total Joint Replacement.
Our site contains a number of articles about spinal fusion; we hope you’ll use them as a resource to read more in-depth about fusion surgery. In short, spinal fusion is often a temporary surgery: The loss of your natural range of motion as a result of removing a joint in your spine causes problems for the spinal levels adjacent to the fusion, making them work harder, often causing additional pain and additional surgery—what’s called adjacent segment disease.
Many patients require a second and even third fusion to address the rapid degeneration of the spine that occurs after the first surgery. Every time you have additional surgery, there’s more scarring, more stiffness of the spine, and less overall pain relief. That’s why most patients investigate their options exhaustively before committing.
BalancedBack® Total Joint Replacement
A BalancedBack® Total Joint Replacement is different from both artificial disc replacement and fusion. During BalancedBack® surgery, your surgeon implants a device that replaces the function of the worn-out joint completely, addressing both the disc and facet joints. Plus, as opposed to the frontal approach used during disc replacement surgery, BalancedBack® surgeons approach your spine from the back. That type of approach—and the idea of a joint replacement itself—has some important advantages over fusion and artificial disc replacement:
- It addresses a greater number of challenges associated with a more mature spine. That’s because the posterior (from the back) approach allows surgeons to treat your leg pain caused by pinched nerves; also, the surgery removes your facet joints and replaces their function with an implant. Your chances of living pain-free are greatly increased as a result.
- By fully replacing the function of the joint completely (think of it like a hip or knee replacement), BalancedBack® Total Joint Replacement allows your spine to keep moving naturally. That means you’ll likely avoid premature degeneration of the adjacent joints and the problems that degeneration causes.
Patients of all ages, from 22 to 79, have had a BalancedBack® Total Joint Replacement; you can see their stories here. If you’re interested in finding out more about the procedure, or would like to know whether you’re a good candidate for it, get in touch.