Nervous about Cervical Disc Replacement—any advice or stories?
I posted about my problem earlier, and there’s been some developments. I’ve had mainly right-sided radiculopathy for several months, and I was able to see both a pain specialist and a neurosurgeon for this issue. Here are my MRI results to start with:
C4-5: Mild posterior osseous ridging which is eccentric to the left. Mild left-sided canal narrowing. No cord compression. Neural foramina patent.
C5-6: Disc-osteophyte complex with element of left paracentral disc protrusion. Moderate canal stenosis. Mild left ventral cord contouring without cord compression or cord edema. No significant foraminal stenosis.
C6-7: Shallow central disc protrusion without significant canal stenosis or cord compression. Neural foramina patent.
The pain specialist I saw wanted to try some cortisone injections in C6-7, just based on reading those MRI results. I was going to do that, but I lucked out and got in to see a neurosurgeon early before that appointment. The Neurosurgeon looked at my actual MRI films, and thinks my issues are mostly from C5-6 level, and said that he thinks I should have a total disc replacement, or an ACDF if the insurance won’t cover an artificial disc. Especially because of the bone spur at that level, he said there’s little chance that disc will ever stop being a problem on its own, and I’m young (32 year old female). Seemed reasonable to me, since I’ve been ready to just cut my own arm off.
He also said that a disc replacement would decrease the chance of speeding degeneration at other levels, so long as insurance will pay for it. I am still a little concerned that the disc below it, C6-7 is already bulging—he obviously didn’t think it should be dealt with surgically yet, but I’m still worried about it, since the pain specialist actually thought that disc was the problem. That’s making me nervous. I talked to his nurse today, and she said that if he thought it was a problem, he would have already told me about it during my consultation. I just want to make sure I’m asking the right questions about consequences of doing surgery.
Mainly, there also seems to be less information and patient/provider experiences online about the disc replacement than there is for the ACDF, so I was wondering if anyone here just had any personal experience or advice about what to expect, what questions I should be asking, or any other cautions I should heed before proceeding. Thanks for any help—it’s a big surgery to me, so it’s rather scary.