Workers compensation may cover what is artificial disc replacement back surgery in some circumstances.  However, since few surgeons are recommending or practicing the procedure, it rarely comes up as an issue in worker’s compensation claims.

Artificial disc replacement (ADR) is a device or implant used to replace a diseased or damaged intervertebral disc. After removing what’s left of the worn out disc, the ADR is inserted in the space between two lumbar vertebrae. The goal is to replace the diseased or damaged disc while keeping your normal spinal motion. Artificial disc surgery is relatively new in the United States but has been used in Europe for many years. In the U.S., the first lumbar artificial disc surgery was done in clinical trials in October 2001. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of the lumbar ADRs in October 2004.

Disc replacement surgery is done to stop the symptoms of damaged disc.  Discs can bulge or herniate from a specific work injury and put pressure on a nerve causing pain; or a disc can wear out or degenerate due in part to bending, twisting and lifting physical job duties over time.

The lumbar artificial disc has several different designs. They are made of metal, ceramic, and plastic.  There is a plastic (polyethylene) core between two endplates made of cobalt chromium alloy, a safe material that has been used for many years in replacement joints for the hip and knee.

Another artificial disc replacement design is a ball and socket articulation to allow for normal translation of motion at that segment. The implant may be made of titanium and polyurethane in a metal-on-plastic design. Some are made of stainless steel and are all metal-on-metal.

Inserted between two vertebrae, the prosthesis reestablishes the height between two vertebrae. As a result of enlarging the disc space, the nearby spinal ligaments are pulled tight, which helps hold the prosthesis in place. The prosthesis is further held in place by the normal pressure through the spine.

Artificial disc replacement may offer an alternative to spinal fusion for some patients. While fusion stops pain by eliminating movement in the problem spinal segment, artificial disc replacement allows natural motion in the part of the spine where the disc is implanted.  The implant is designed to withstand bending, twisting, compression and repeated loads during movement.  Long-term studies to assess the safety and effectiveness of artificial disc replacements are ongoing.

In Milwaukee, Wisconsin McCormick Law Office attorneys get the best results for injured workers in workers compensation back injury claims whether fusion back surgery or artificial disc replacement surgery is performed, as long as the work-related condition is documented and the surgeon and other doctors support the claim.