The cervical discs are the soft cushions that lie between the cervical vertebrae. They act as shock absorbents to allow your neck to move.
Your cervical spine also forms a protective layer for the upper part of your spinal cord to pass through. This part of your spinal cord contains the nerves that supply your upper body with sensation and movement.
When the space between your vertebrae becomes too narrow, part of your vertebrae or your cervical disc can press on your spinal cord or spinal nerves, causing you extreme pain, numbness, or weakness. When these symptoms do not respond to nonsurgical types of treatment, surgery may be recommended.
Cervical disc replacement surgery involves removing a bad cervical disk and replacing it with an artificial disc. Before this procedure was available, the affected disc was taken out and the vertebrae above and below were fused together to prevent motion.
The use of an artificial disc to replace your cervical disk is a new type of treatment that has recently been approved by the FDA. Disc replacement surgery may have the advantage of allowing more movement and creating less stress on your vertebrae than traditional cervical surgery.
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Recovery from cervical total disc replacement
Pain after disk replacement surgery is normal and you might be given pain medication in the recovery area.
Most people will need to spend a day or two in the hospital. Here is things that may happen during your stay.
- Intravenous fluids may be continued until you can consume fluids well by mouth.
- Once you are able to drink normally, you will be able to start eating a normal diet.
- You’ll continue to take pain medication if it is needed.
- Your nurses will check your clothes and help you to get out of bed and go to the bathroom.
- You may be given a support collar to wear while in the hospital.
- You will be encouraged to get out of bed and move around as soon as you are able to do so successfully.
Recovery and rehabilitation at home may be a little different for each person, but in general, here’s what you might expect:
- You may need to continue wearing a neck support.
- You may be able to eat your normal diet.
- You may need to return to your surgeon to be evaluated.
- You will gradually start returning to your normal activities. You should ask your surgeon about any activity restrictions and when you can take a regular shower or bath.
- You may start physical therapy after a few weeks.
- You should be able to return to full activities by 4 to 8 weeks.
You should call your surgeon if you have any of these problems:
- Bleeding, redness, swelling, or discharge from your incision site
- Pain that does not respond to pain medication
- Numbness or weakness
- Difficulty swallowing
- Voice change or hoarseness
- Difficulty breathing
Your health care team may give you other instructions about what you should do after your procedure.