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Disc offers flexibility for surgery patients
by Mary Helen
Patients suffering from cervical disc disease or injury now may have
the option of having an artificial disc implanted instead of having the
vertebrae fused after disc removal.
Dr. John Glaser
shows the area on the body in which the artificial cervical disc would
The surgery was performed for the first time at MUSC in early July. The
procedure offers patients the chance of having greater flexibility in
neck movements following surgery, said John Glaser, M.D., an
orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in the spine. Glaser was the second
to perform the procedure following the first by neurosurgeon
Sunil Patel, M.D.
The device Glaser used, ProDisc-C by Synthes Spine, is one of two
approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The other device is the
“This device is a motion-sparing technology that, in the long run, may
be better for some people than fusion, which eliminates all motion in
the affected area,” said Glaser. “The ProDisc helps spare the residual
motion and, therefore, theoretically decreases the risk of degeneration
of adjacent discs.”
The artificial disc replacement, which for years has been available for
lower lumbar spine therapy, would be recommended for someone who would
have surgery anyway, Glaser said.
The surgery only takes about 10 minutes longer than a fusion procedure,
Glaser said, and is actually easier to perform than the lumbar disc
replacement which requires the surgeon to enter through the abdomen.
Disc replacement in the lumbar region also requires two surgeons: a
surgeon to expose the area and a spine surgeon.
“The cervical disc replacement uses the same access as the fusion,”
Glaser said. The recovery time also is a little faster than other spine
surgeries, because “there is no bone to heal and the patient can move
earlier; maybe in a couple of weeks,” he said.
Patients that may not be suitable for the disc replacement would be
those with severe arthritis in the joints of the neck and those with
surgical problems at multiple levels of the neck, Glaser said. Having
the artificial disc implants, though, theoretically helps reduce the
risk of arthritis in patients later.
It costs about the same as surgery involving fusion, and may be
covered under some insurance plans.
In a related matter, MUSC is seeking a patent on a surgical method
invented by Glaser that involves plate fixation of the first cervical
vertebrae (C-1). The C-1 traditionally is a difficult area in which to
work, because of the proximity to the head, main arteries, and spinal
The method was presented to the Cervical Spine Society in 2006 and
recently was accepted for publication in the journal Spine.
Friday, Aug. 8, 2008
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