Artificial disc replacement is a type of spinal surgical procedure that replaces damaged or degenerating vertebral discs in the spine. In most situations, artificial disc replacement, also known as ADR, is performed on the lower or lumbar region of the back. Artificial disc replacement is often suggested after other nonsurgical methods such as medication, physical therapy, and exercise have failed to produce desired results.
Artificial disc replacement is the process through which an artificial structure replaces the defective or damaged disk in the spinal column, providing support, cushioning and improvement in mobility for spinal surgery patients.
Artificial disc replacement surgical procedures and techniques are still in their infancy and are generally reserved for individuals whose general overall health is good, and whose disc issues are not caused by aging or bone disorders such as osteoporosis or arthritis. Patients with one degenerative disk are considered ideal patients, which is often produced by conditions such as degenerative disc disease which may cause thinning, herniated, or bulging discs in a section of the spinal column.
Artificial disc replacement surgery takes place under a general anesthesia, which means the patient is put to sleep. The procedure takes between one and two hours, followed by a three to four-day hospital stay. The artificial disc is designed as two metal end plates, between which may be found medical grade polyethylene or plastic or gel-like substances, much like a sandwich.
One of the most common procedures for artificial disc replacement surgery is minimally invasive procedure utilizing a small incision (3 to 8 cm) beneath the belly button. Internal organs and blood vessels are gently moved out of the way to provide a view of the spinal column from the front (anterior view).
Through the small incision, a neurosurgeon or orthopedics spine surgeon inserts a special grasping instrument that removes the damaged vertebral disc, which leaves and open space between the vertebra. An end plate, often with small metal teeth attached, is fastened to the upper and lower portion of the vertebral space. Bone eventually absorbs and grows around these metal plates, offering stability, longevity, and strength. An artificial disc prosthesis, usually made of a gelatinous or plastic substance, is inserted into the vertebral space to approximate the normal height of the original disc.
The patient is often required to wear a back brace support for up to 12 weeks following such a surgical procedure to enable and encourage healing.
In the United States, the cost of an artificial disc averages around $11,000, which does not include surgical fees, which may amount to upward of $50,000 or more, bringing costs for the replacement of a single artificial disc to roughly $60,000 to $65,000 dollars, not including hospital stay costs.
However, individuals traveling to India may enjoy savings of tens of thousands of dollars. Cost of cervical disc replacement in India ranges between $10,000 and $24,000, including hospital stay, while travelers to destinations such as Costa Rica may save between 35 and 50% on costs found in the United States. Travelers to South Korea may pay around $18,000 to $19,000. Lower costs do not equate to lower quality, but lower operating costs, lower medical malpractice costs, and different healthcare systems in place in foreign destinations.
An artificial disc replacement surgical procedure is generally performed by a vascular or general surgeon, in addition to an orthopedic spines surgeon or neurosurgeon. Surgeons should be chosen according to their expertise and experience in related fields. Physicians and surgeons should be certified in their field, and show membership in national or regional boards or associations in his or her country of origin. Whenever possible, consumers are encouraged to get more than one opinion before engaging in any type of spinal surgery, as well as making sure that facilities, surgeons, and healthcare staff are accredited by international associations and organizations to ensure quality of equipment, technology, as well as quality of care by medical staff.
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