Artificial disc replacement (ADR) is a device or implant used to replace a diseased or damaged intervertebral disc. Injured workers with workers compensation claims may be considered for such surgery, although we do not see it often in Wisconsin in the workers’ compensation context.  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.

Disc replacement surgery is done to stop the symptoms of degenerative disc disease. Discs wear out or degenerate as a natural part of aging and from job duties over time. Eventually, the problem disc collapses, which causes the vertebra above to sink toward the one below. This loss of disc height affects nearby structures – especially the facet joints.

Replacing the damaged disc with an artificial disc, or implant, called a prosthesis can restore the normal distance between the two vertebrae. The artificial disc sits between the two vertebrae and distracts or “jacks up” the upper vertebra. Enlarging the disc space relieves pressure on the facet joints. It also opens up the space around the spinal nerve roots where they pass through the neural foramina.

Another benefit of the artificial disc replacement is that it mimics a healthy disc. Natural motion is preserved in the spine where the new disc is implanted. And it helps maintain stability in the spinal joints above and below it.

Artificial disc replacement may offer an alternative to spinal fusion for some patients who have chronic back pain from degenerative disc disease. 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. This is because the prosthesis is designed to restore normal motion and height between adjacent vertebrae. Artificial disc replacement allows for an early return to function.

The implant is designed to withstand bending, twisting, compression and repeated loads during movement. Depending on activity levels, successful disc replacement could endure years of high loads without mechanical failure.

Long-term studies to assess the safety and effectiveness of artificial disc replacements are ongoing. Researchers are looking at the impact of the ADR on other discs and on the bony structures of the spine. So far results show a low rate of complications.

In Milwaukee, Wisconsin [nap_names id=”FIRM-NAME-1″] attorneys represent workers with low back herniated discs and degenerative disc disease caused by years of physical job duties over time and contributed to by a single lifting or work accident.  Artificial disc replacement may be a viable alternative treatment for getting the best results.