Cervical Disc Replacement: What to Expect

The cervical vertebrae are the most delicate part of your spine, located in your neck. When one of the discs cushioning your cervical vertebrae gets damaged or deteriorates, it may cause discomfort in your head and neck, or even radiate down your arms.

When your quality of life is compromised by nerve pain and you haven’t found relief with conservative treatment methods, it’s time to learn more about cervical disc replacement, a surgery that replaces a damaged disc to reduce compression and pain within your spine.

Spinal fusion is another common treatment for herniated discs in the neck, but cervical disc replacement may help you retain a greater range of motion while decreasing strain on adjacent discs. Here to help you learn more about what to expect if you’re considering cervical disc replacement is Aron Rovner, MD

Dr. Rovner and our team at New York Spine and Sports Surgery have extensive experience performing cervical disc replacements for people suffering from cervical radiculopathy, herniated discs, and other painful cervical conditions. 

What happens during cervical disc replacement

Cervical disc replacement is a surgical procedure that takes several hours to complete. When you come in on the day of your surgery, we’ll administer general anesthesia to put you to sleep, so you won’t feel any pain.

You’ll lie on your back in the operating room, and our team makes a small incision in your neck. We move muscle and other critical structures in your neck aside to reach your spine and expose the damaged disc.

Using specialized tools, we carefully remove the affected disc, clear away any bone spurs, and decompress surrounding nerves. Then we insert the artificial disc into the space.

The artificial disc is generally made from two pieces of metal that slide against each other. Dr. Rovner fits a metallic piece to each vertebrae and secures them with screws. Sometimes, the artificial disc contains a piece of medical grade plastic between the vertebrae, which acts as a disc.

Once the artificial disc is in place, we close the incision and move you into a recovery room where you’ll wake up. 

Recovering from cervical disc replacement

Expect to spend 1-2 days in the hospital after cervical disc replacement. During this time, our team monitors your vital signs and pain level to ensure your neck is healing properly. You can get up and move around as soon as you feel well enough to do so.

We may give you pain medication immediately after surgery, but many patients report a significant decrease in pain in as little as two days after cervical disc replacement. As soon as you’re able to swallow normally, you can resume your normal diet.

Most people need to wear a cervical collar or other form of neck support following cervical disc replacement. Dr. Rovner and our team will give you instructions for at-home care before you leave the hospital. 

Once you’re discharged, be sure to attend your follow-up appointments. These could include an appointment to remove your stitches once your incision has healed and X-rays to check the placement of your new disc.

We’ll begin scheduling physical therapy sessions a few weeks after surgery to strengthen your neck and increase mobility. Every patient is different, but many people find that they’re able to fully return to their normal activities within 4-6 weeks. 

If you’ve been told you’re a candidate for cervical disc replacement, it could be the answer to your neck, head, or arm pain. Talk to Dr. Rovner and our team at New York Spine and Sports Surgery to learn more about the benefits of this spine surgery. Call us to schedule your consultation at one of our offices in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, or Garden City, New York.

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