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Nervous about Cervical Disc Replacement—any advice or stories?

Started by SongJin on 01/08/2016 4:57pm

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.

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5 Responses


Hi SongJin, I had ACDF 3 levels c4-c7 on April 6, 2016. I had about 5 different opinions and they all told me surgery. I am 50 years old and did not read too much on the internet prior to the procedure because I did not want to scare the crap out of myself. I am remarkably better. My days tend to be great or horrible, probably because when I feel great I do too much. My goal is to simply walk daily, drink water, take meds on schedule, limit stress, eat NON GMO foods as much as I can afford, and rest. I hurt everyday, but the magnitude and duration of the pain is different. At three weeks post-op I think it was a great decision.


Hi. I am new here and yours is the first question that I had read. I had an ACD&F surgery with allograft (artificial disc) on C 6-7 due to ruptured disc one year ago last month. I had horrible pain, burning and numbness running the length from neck , through elbow to fingertips of my left arm. I tried PT and had facet injections until the last one made me violently ill and left me with my hands and feet cramped and I thought I was going to stay that way! I was in horrible pain from it. I quit that pain doctor because he told me there was nothing wrong with my neck other than I needed injections (because he was billing my insurance $1200 a pop) I got a second opinion and new MRI and I found a surgeon who specialized in neck surgeries. He was truthful and said it would likely take care of my arm pain but was pretty much to prevent paralysis. I had a huge bone spur so large I couldn't turn my head to the right. He shaved that off while he was in there and used that in the allograft to help with bone growth. and fusion. Truthfully, my pain is different, but it is still there. My arm pain is back, but not to the same degree,..not to say your pain won't go away! Just in my case, my C3-4 and C5-6 have bone spurs indenting the ventral sac in both places and I have a new one where the surgery was which is doing the same thing, and now I have degenerative disc disease. I am 44 and I feel 74 some days. I am thinking that if I didn't have DDD and the other bone spurs and irritation on my spinal cord, that the surgery would have been worth it. I hope yours is successful! Everyone is different...my neighbor had the same type of surgery and same surgeon and she is golfing again and better than ever. Best of luck!


Hi there :) I am less than 1 week out of c6 disc replacement surgery. I am healing really well. My finger tips on my left hand are still numb but I was told by the PA that I could expect months before the nerves heal all of the way. When they went in to do the surgery they found that my disc had shattered and I had little pieces stuck into different areas of my nerves. With all of that going on inside of my body I think I am doing very good ! I am not in a lot of pain. My shoulders and spine ache but they don't hurt. I have no more shooting pain and I can finally lay on my side again. I think this was a very good choice to have this surgery done and I am looking forward to healing the rest of the way. I am super active and I want to keep it that way :) good luck with everything!


I have had 7 cervical surgeries 3 posterior 4 anterior. With a MRI report like that and your age I would not have any kind of surgery done at this point right now. Spine surgeries are a snow ball affect and you touch one level and then the other ones go. I know with the artificial disc replacement preserves the movement in the spine but what happens if it fails or you have bone overgrowth. Anterior surgery is not bad at all .Maybe 2 days in the hospital.Try a Faucett Block first before you do any surgery and if your doctor doesn't agree find a new doctor. Only you know your pain but the surgery should be a last resort. I'm only 46 and disabled. I lost a lot!!!!! Any questions let me know. Good luck!!!!!


Hello, SongJin (and everyone else):

We know this is an older thread--and SongJin, you've likely undergone your procedure already--but we'd like to share some content about cervical artificial disc replacement here, in case it may be of use to anyone else who comes across this post.

Here are some helpful resources:
( Cervical Disc Replacement for Neck or Arm Pain )
( Cervical Artificial Disc Replacement vs. Spinal Fusion )
( Cervical Artificial Disc Replacement: What You Need To Know )
( Cervical Artificial Disc Replacement Technology: An Overview )

Thanks for posting such a great question to our Community, and we hope this information helps shed light on this procedure!