Lumbar Disc Replacement: A Patient’s Guide

Back pain is something that everybody is scared of, and once back pain issues start, it takes a lot of therapy, massage and medication to get rid of it. But, if your disc is at risk or has a minor injury, the condition becomes worse. When such serious disc issues arise, a lumbar total disc replacement is what doctors suggest. It is the best way to eliminate the neverending pain and discomfort.

But, what is a lumbar disc replacement? Who needs this replacement surgery? And how to prepare for the replacement surgery? 

These are the questions that haunt many who suffer from various disc conditions. If you have these doubts in your mind, read on to understand the treatment.

What is a lumbar total disc replacement?

It is a type of spine surgery. The spine is made up of bones known as vertebrae stacked on top of each other. The discs between the vertebrae function like sponges to let the vertebrae move and rotate without the bones grinding against each other. 

The lumbar vertebrae and discs are in the lowermost part of your spine, and in the replacement surgery, the surgeon replaces the degenerated or worn disc in the bottom part of the spine with an artificial one. This artificial disc is usually made of plastic, metal, or a combination of both.

This surgery is seen as an alternative to spinal fusion surgery. The fusion method permanently joins two vertebrae, but this surgery replaces the disc.

Who needs to undergo a lumbar total disc replacement surgery?

The main reason for the replacement surgery is to treat lower back pain. But, not everyone needs to go under this surgery, and your doctor is the one who has the final say in this matter.

The lumbar disc replacement surgery is recommended if:

  • The backache is coming from just 1 or 2 discs in the lower spine
  • The patient has no severe joint disease or pressure on the nerves of the spine
  • One is not overweight
  • No history of spinal surgery
  • One doesn’t have scoliosis or some spinal deformity

How should one prepare for lumbar disc replacement surgery?

There are quite a few things one must do before disc replacement surgery. They are:

Do the following tests

  • Physical exam (with medical history)
  • X-rays
  • MRI or CT scan
  • Blood test
  • And other tests suggested by the surgeon

One needs to stop the use of tobacco (chewing/smoking)

It would be best to inform your doctor about the OTC medicines, prescriptions, vitamins, herbs, and supplements you are taking. The doctor must know all the medications you are taking, as some of these may react with the medication after the surgery, and some may affect your body’s healing and blood clotting process.

Follow the rules set by the surgeon, such as:

  • Not to eat or drink on the day of surgery.
  • Stay at the hospital a few days before the surgery and after.
  • Don’t drive or move your body vigorously after the surgery.
  • Assign a nurse or a helper for assisting you to do regular chores for the first few days after the surgery.

After the surgery:

  • You will be shown the exercises and movements to regain flexibility and strength.
  • The surgery improves the pain.
  • The recovery may take from a few weeks to a few months.
  • Don’t lift heavy weights and avoid activities that will put a strain on your spine.
  • Keep in touch with your surgeon and do routine checkups if in doubt.

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