Like many people reading this blog, along with bulging discs and Spinal Stenosis, I have Degenerative Disc Disease. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how this contributes to my overall level of chronic pain, but generally speaking, DDD causes a lot of stiffness and instability. I wake up with an achey lower back, and spend most of my day trying to minimize the amount of bone on bone (vertebrae – L5/S1) pounding it takes.
The discs in your spine act like shock absorbers providing a cushion between the vertebrae. These discs give your back flexibility so that you can bend and twist, but with age they lose water and shrivel up. With less fluid in each disc, they can’t absorb shocks as well. With less padding, any type of pressure from everyday activities such as walking or even standing, can cause a lot of discomfort.
Lumbar Disc Replacement
LDR involves replacing a worn or degenerated disk in the lower part of your spine with an artificial disk made of metal or a combination of metal and plastic. This type of procedure is more popular in Europe than in North America due to high costs, risks involved, and lack of surgeons who can perform the surgery. Here’s a recent study highlighted by Spine Review that shows the results of a two year study on disc replacement surgery all L5/S1.
You will have an IV line put into a vein in your hand or arm through which an anesthetic is given. The medicine will put you into a deep sleep and keep you from feeling pain during the surgery. You will be lying on your back for this surgery.
A team of surgeons (usually a vascular surgeon and an orthopedic or neurosurgeon) will do the procedure together. The surgeon will make an incision in your abdomen. Your organs and blood vessels will be moved to the side to allow access to your spine.
The surgeon will remove the damaged disk and put the new artificial disk in place. Your organs and blood vessels are put back in place and the incision will be closed.
You will be taken to a recovery area for close monitoring until you are awake from the anesthesia. You will still have an IV line and may also have a catheter in your bladder to make urination easier. When you are fully awake and alert, you will be taken to your hospital room.
Talk with your healthcare provider about what you can expect your lumbar disk replacement procedure to be like.
Here’s what it actually looks like…warning, not for the squeamish!