Artificial Cervical Disc Implant Surgery: First of its Kind in US!

Experienced SurgeonsSurgeons with the Indiana Spine Group performed the first artificial cervical implant surgery in the United States. SpineUniverse talked with Rick Sasso, M.D., one of the spine surgeons who performed the surgery. Dr. Sasso is also a SpineUniverse Editorial Board member.

SpineUniverse: Dr. Sasso, congratulations on this remarkable surgery! Can you tell us a little bit about the procedure?

Dr. Sasso: Thank you. We performed the surgery at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis. The procedure utilized an artificial cervical disc, which resembles a normal human disc but is made out of titanium with a polyurethane nucleus. The artificial disc was inserted into the damaged disc space of the patient in order to restore disc height, improve mobility and flexibility, and eliminate his debilitating pain.

sasso disc picture

Artificial Cervical Disc


virtual disc
Virtual Artificial Cervical Disc

SpineUniverse: What type of cervical condition did the patient have?

Dr. Sasso: Our patient was a 41-year-old male who suffered from a herniated cervical disc as a result of an injury he sustained in an automobile crash 6 months prior. His injury severely limited his neck movement and caused severe left arm pain. He was an ideal candidate for the implant surgery; especially since the numerous pain management strategies he tried were ineffective.

Post-Operative Anterior Posterior Bending X-Rays


Post-Operative Flexion Extension X-Rays

SpineUniverse: How has this type of surgery traditionally been performed?

Dr. Sasso: The current standard surgical procedure, called anterior cervical fusion, involves the use of instrumentation such as a metal plate or pins to help stabilize the neck. The surgery also involves fusion - when a piece of bone taken from either the patient's hip or a human cadaver is implanted into the disc space in order to fuse the vertebrae together. The purpose of the surgery is to limit movement in the spine and thereby reduce or eliminate pain.

drilled disc for space
Placement of Cervical Artificial Disc Illustrated


intraoperative disc placement
Intraoperative Placement of Artificial Cervical Disc

SpineUniverse: How is using an artificial disc better than relying on fusion?

Dr. Sasso: The use of the new artificial disc eliminates the need for both instrumentation and bone grafts. This is preferable because there are disadvantages to bone grafting including the need for an additional incision, pain and soreness at the graft site (which often last well after the surgery), as well as the potential surgical complications that accompany grafting. Even when we use a patient's own bone, 100% fusion rates are not always achieved. In addition, fusion surgery results in a significant loss of neck mobility. The artificial disc provides patients with more normal neck movement than the traditional fusion surgery.

SpineUniverse: Are artificial cervical discs available everywhere?

Dr. Sasso: Not yet. We are very proud to be one of only 20 centers in the United States with access to this technology. However, as more of these surgeries are performed, and the outcomes are measured, we are hopeful that this technology will become the new standard surgical procedure for disc problems - not just in the cervical spine but in other areas of the spine as well.

SpineUniverse: Thank you Dr. Sasso. We look forward to hearing more about these surgeries in the future.

Dr. Sasso: My pleasure. I will be sure to keep you informed on our research in this area.

Updated on: 12/12/18
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