Artificial Disc Replacement versus Spinal Fusion

May 31, 2023

Lower back pain and neck pain are some of the most common reasons people seek medical treatment. Common treatments may include anti-inflammatory medicines, heat or ice, and physical therapy. While most pain will get better on its own within three months, oftentimes pain will persist and become chronic. When treatments no longer offer relief and pain does not appear to be getting better, surgery may be an option. To schedule a consultation with a physician near you, please visit the following link.

Randy, a firefighter who was injured on the job, opted for artificial disc replacement and went on to continue his active lifestyle and career. Please watch the following video for a personal account of his experience with disc replacement surgery.

Randy’s Story with the M6-C™ Artificial Cervical Disc

Artificial Disc Replacement vs. Spinal Fusion: What’s the Difference?

Spinal fusion surgery is a procedure where spinal bones are fused together with a bone graft. When healing is complete, two or more vertebral bones will be fused together like a single bone. After fusion surgery, the vertebral bones of the spine no longer move independently, causing less flexibility and mobility.

Artificial disc replacement surgery is a procedure where problem vertebral discs are replaced with artificial joints or a prosthesis. After disc replacement surgery, the prosthesis is like the natural joint, allowing the spine to bend, flex and rotate as it did when the discs were healthy.

Pros and Cons of Disc Replacement Surgery

The biggest advantage of spinal disc replacement is it preserves the patient’s motion and mobility. Recovery times are faster than with spinal fusion surgery because the bones do not have to heal together following surgery. Patient satisfaction is also greater with those who have had disc replacement surgery over spinal fusion. Eventually, it is possible that patients may need to have their artificial joint replaced but probably not for 40+ years. Disc replacement surgery can be a successful procedure for those who want to continue living an active lifestyle while remaining pain free.

Pros and Cons of Spinal Fusion Surgery

Cervical fusion helps those with chronic pain that have not responded to nonsurgical treatments, thus improving a patient’s quality of life. However, fusion surgery may lead to stiffness and a loss in the range of motion. Also, areas above and below the fusion are subject to increased stress meaning a patient may be more likely to develop problems in the adjacent discs over time.

Who is a Candidate for Disc Replacement or Spinal Fusion Surgeries?

If nonsurgical treatments and procedures have not been successful in alleviating pain, a physician may recommend surgery as an alternative. It is important to note though that not every patient will be eligible for either disc replacement surgery or spinal fusion surgery. Below are some of the criteria needed to qualify for either procedure.

To qualify for disc replacement surgery:

  • Patient wants to lead an active lifestyle
  • Patient is not excessively overweight
  • Patient does not have scoliosis or other spinal deformity
  • No significant joint disease or compression on the nerves of the spine

To qualify for spinal fusion surgery:

  • Patient has degenerative disc disorder
  • Patient has spinal stenosis (when space inside the backbone is too small)
  • Patient has scoliosis (curvature of the spine)
  • Patient has a break or fracture of the spinal column
  • Patient has an infection of the spinal column
  • Patient has spondylolisthesis (where one of the bones in your spine slips forward)


Orthofix Offers a Natural Choice for M6 Disc Replacement

The M6-C artificial disc is an innovative option for those looking for an alternative to spinal fusion. The artificial disc is designed to mimic your natural disc, allowing you to move up and down, backwards and forwards, side to side, as well as rotating left and right. The M6-C disc allows your spine to move naturally to potentially minimize the stress to the discs above and below.

M6-C Artificial Disc Components

  • Titanium endplates anchor the disc to the bones of neighboring vertebrae which will provide long-term stability.
  • Artificial nucleus is composed of viscoelastic polymer.
  • Artificial annulus is composed of polyethylene fiber material.
  • The annulus and nucleus work together to replicate the range of movement and cushioning effect of the natural disc.

As one of the leading medical device companies in the world focusing on spine and orthopedics, Orthofix is committed to helping people enjoy a pain free lifestyle.

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