Cervical Spondylosis and Artificial Disc Research

Cervical Spondylosis – Wear and Tear of the Cervical Spine

Cervical Spondylosis is commonly referred to as degenerative “Wear and Tear”. It’s a fact of life and part of the aging process, but to dismiss it as just “Something everybody gets” is a mistake. Yes we will all have some degree of Spondylosis, but it should not be taken lightly. Wear and Tear implies it’s just an ordinary everyday thing and we should not worry about it. This may not be the case, because for some of us we are worn and torn way top early in life! Much of the damage done as the result of our own lifestyle choices. If we recognize why we have this disease to a greater degree than is normal for our age, then we can take steps to slow it’s progression.

Unfortunately for most of us, by the time we feel the pain it is often too late! Our Discs erode under the mechanical stresses of everyday life, but are accelerated by our lifestyle choices, posture, stressors, diet, trauma, and genetics. If you live long enough you’ll experience some form of Spondylosis even if you never feel the symptoms.

Lower back degeneration is more commonly felt than neck problems. However many office workers who site at a desk all day, especially in front of a computer screen, can develop Spondylosis from poor postural habits. As a general rule for every 1″ of “Head Forward Posture” the neck receives TWICE the amount of pressure on the discs. Discs in the Center of the neck C5/6 and C6/7 receive the most pressure and are the first to bulge, protrude, and become herniated. Imagine your head as a gallon of milk, in perfect balance on the top of your spine. Move that gallon of milk forward through poor posture and the forces on your spine and soft tissues are amplified to the point where they wear, then eventually break.

Because the discs stop receiving nutrition from a vascular source (There is no separate blood supply to the discs) in most people by the age of 25, healing is a long slow process. Most people are as shocked – as I was – to learn the disc material actually starts to degenerate as early as the second decade of life! In many people damaged cervical discs may experience some resorption, but may never heal completely, ultimately requiring surgical intervention. The current “Gold Standard” of treatment (if conservative treatment and natural healing fail) is called Anterior Cervical Spinal Fusion or Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDSF).

An Alternative to Cervical Fusion – Artificial Disc Replacement ADR

ADR may be the answer for the “Right” candidates and holds tremendous potential as the technology matures. If you are a candidate for any kind of Cervical Disc Surgery I would recommend you take the time to read the article I’m about to link to published by The American Association of Neurological Surgeons. and written by Physicians from the Department of Neurosurgery, Stanford University Medical Center, Stanford, California : (This is a .pdf file so you’ll need Adobe Acrobat or a PDF reader to view it).

Artificial Discs & Cervical Discetomy – Historical Review of Surgical Anthroplasty

Note: Anthroplasty is the term used to describe replacement of a joint

This article is reproduced in whole for the education of all people with neck pain. No intent is made to violate copyright or gain commercially from the republication of this article. For more information we recommend you visit AANS.ORG This article was published in 2004, and at the time of this update in July 2008, 2 ADR’s (The Prestige ST and Prodisc-C) have been FDA Approved for use in the United States of America with additional approvals pending for new devices currently undergoing clinical trials. I will make additional posts with links to ADR information in both the Neck and Back Pain Categories.

In the above article you will learn about all the Artificial Surgical Disc options in clinical trial as of Summer 2005. The PCM (Porous Coated Motion) from Cervitec looks promising, but has not been FDA approved yet.

Artificial Discs are the wave of the future as they preserve the motion of the disc. Remember the goal of Cervical Fusion is not to make the disc a rigid piece of bone, it’s to decompress the spine – taking pressure off the nerves, to relieve the pain and prevent neurological damage. Unfortunately there are many complications to fusion that arise later. Artificial discs may be the answer, especially in light of the fact that nearly 25-30% of all fusion patients will require further surgery within 10 years according to this article. Read the article and get yourself up to speed on cervical surgical options.

Quick Definitions to help you understand the Surgical Terms:

  • Autograft – Patients own bone (Usually taken from the hip)
  • Allograft – Donor bone from cadaver
  • Arthroplasty – Complete replacement of a joint
  • Arthrodesis (Spinal Fusion)

Autograft Cons: Chronic pain from donor site (Usually your hip), Infection of donor area, Hip fracture, Bleeding, Damage to the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve resulting in loss of sensory sensation to the front of the thigh.

Allograft Cons: Slower to heal in multi-level fusions often necessitating the use of anterior plating. Theoretical risk of transmission of infection from a donor.

ADR Resources:

Global Patient Network – Run by Mark Mintzer both a patient advocate and a patient who has received ADR placement.

iSpine.org – iSpine is a sister site to Global Patent Network and offers the most informative ADR Discussion Forums.

Degenerative Spine Disease Explained – Article published by the University of California San Diego Neuroradiology Department.

Posted by on Jul 16th, 2008 and filed under Neck Pain. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response by filling following comment form or trackback to this entry from your site

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