In a Workers Compensation Artificial Disc Replacement case the disc replacement surgery is done to stop the symptoms of degenerative disc disease. Discs can wear out or degenerate as a from stress and strain on the spine due to job duties, physical job duties such as lifting, bending, twisting and turning. 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 facet joints.
When the disc collapses it no longer supports its share of the load in the spine. The facet joints of the spine begin to support more of the force that is transmitted between each vertebra. This increases the wear and tear on the articular cartilage that covers the surface of the joints. This wear and tear is what is commonly referred to as arthritis.
Shrinking disc height reduces the size of the neural foramina, the openings between each vertebral pair where the nerve roots leave the spinal column. The arthritis also results in the development of bone spurs that may protrude into these openings further narrowing the space that the nerves have to exit the spinal canal. The nerve roots can end up getting squeezed where they pass through the neural foramina.
Replacing the damaged disc with an artificial disc 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.
For many years, the standard of care for chronic pain from a degenerated disc has been spinal fusion surgery. Bone graft donated by a bone bank or taken from your pelvic bone is used to fuse two or more vertebral bones together. The spine is stabilized but you will lose motion at that level. The increased stress on the next lumbar vertebra can cause problems later.
The artificial disc replacement is used to reduce or eliminate the pain while still allowing motion. One advantage of the artificial disc is that it may also prevent premature breakdown of adjacent levels of the lumbar spine.
The artificial disc replacement provides an alternative to spinal fusion. Its not for everyone and it’s a medical not legal decision. McCormick Law Office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin represents injured workers with work-related artificial disc replacement.