Lumbar disc replacement is an alternative to spinal fusion. Instead of removing a broken or worn-out spinal disc and fusing two vertebrae together, surgeons can insert artificial discs that are durable and long-lasting. These artificial discs lead to a less invasive procedure, increased mobility, and greater chances of a full recovery.

The growing demand for lumbar disc replacement is reflected in the increased market share for artificial discs. In 2021, the artificial disc replacement market value was $501.1 million and is expected to grow up to $1.09 billion by 2028. The growth is propelled by more doctors embracing this surgical option and patients who ask about replacement rather than fusion.

While lumbar disc replacement is an increasingly popular option, the choice to undergo this procedure still shouldn’t be made lightly. Use this guide to review the pros and cons before making a decision about your spinal health.


Pros of Lumbar Disc Replacement

There are several benefits of lumbar disc replacement compared to spinal fusion or non-surgical treatments. While some back pain can go away with physical therapy and certain medications, surgery is often considered a permanent and long-term result. Disc replacement in particular offers multiple benefits to patients. Here are a few reasons to consider this operation.

Restoration of Spinal Stability and Flexibility

Disc replacement addresses the problems in your spine directly. Many patients report reduced pain levels, greater stability, and flexibility because of the artificial discs. Something that seemed nearly impossible before the operation (like bending over to pick up a fallen toy) can become commonplace once again.

Preserving adjacent discs from accelerated degeneration

When one part of your spine is out of place, other vertebrae need to adjust to this new situation. This can create a domino effect where multiple discs have extra pressure because of your damaged spine.

Disc replacement addresses the main source of discomfort in your lower back while also reducing pressure on adjacent discs, which can prevent future pain and reduce the need for future surgeries.

Minimizing the need for future surgeries

Lumbar disc replacement is one of the most advanced operations in spinal restoration. It has high success rates and the discs can last for decades. This reduces your chances of needing a second surgery while also reducing your long-term spinal care needs.

Enhanced post-operative mobility

One of the main benefits of lumbar disc replacement is increased mobility. When doctors fuse your vertebrae together, they can’t bend and twist as they normally would. However, artificial discs create safe cushions for your vertebrae to move around. Many patients report increased mobility after they recover from surgery.

Reduced rehabilitation and recovery time

Lumbar disc replacement is a less invasive procedure than spinal fusion. The incision is only 1-2 inches in length and most patients can return home the same day they check into the clinic. Because the procedure is less invasive, patients have lower risks of infection and faster recovery times. You can likely return to work and some of your favorite hobbies within a few weeks.


Cons of Lumbar Disc Replacement

Despite being a safe operation with several benefits, there are some risks that come with lumbar disc replacement. Every patient is different and your doctor will walk you through the potential complications that could arise during and after the procedure.

Infection, bleeding, or nerve damage

Infection is a natural risk that comes with any operation. This occurs when the wound doesn’t heal properly, allowing bacteria and other germs inside. Lumbar disc replacement has a very small incision, which reduces the risk of infection. .

Other potential complications include bleeding at the incision site or nerve damage. This is because the vertebrae are located so close to the nerve canal, which serves as a superhighway of information from your brain through your body.

Potential for allergic reactions to artificial disc materials

Though uncommon, some people are allergic to the materials used to create artificial discs. In the event of a reaction, your doctor will need to remove the artificial disc and replace it with another one made of different materials. Some discs are made of metal while others use plastic-based elements as well. Dr. Lanman does metal allergy testing prior to implanting the discs.

Probability of needing revision surgeries in the future

The success rate of lumbar disc replacement can range from 75.5% to 93.3%, which is incredibly high for most surgeries. However, there will never be a 100% guarantee of success for any operation. There is always a chance that your disc replacement isn’t successful and the doctor needs to look at alternative solutions or revision surgery in the future.

Financial implications of the procedure

The cost of lumbar disc replacement will depend on a variety of factors – including your insurance coverage. However, you can see what the average cost is for this procedure across the 30 largest cities in the United States.

Remember that there are other financial costs to this operation. Plan to miss at least a few weeks of work so you can recover thoroughly and restore your spinal health. You might also need to budget for at-home care, physical therapy, and prescription costs if the doctor recommends taking a painkiller or anti-inflammatory medication.


Other Factors to Consider Before Choosing Lumbar Disc Replacement

Weighing the pros and cons of lumbar disc replacement is a great first step to determining whether this procedure is right for you. However, there are other factors to consider and talk to your doctor about. Keep these things in mind as you learn more about the process.

Who is a good candidate for lumbar disc replacement?

Your doctor will let you know whether you are considered a good candidate for lumbar disc replacement. Surgeons often look for patients who have good overall health, so one condition won’t complicate another. They will ask about any medications you take to make sure they don’t impact each other during the recovery process.

You might be surprised to learn that your doctor asks about your lifestyle when considering lumbar disc replacement. They want to know what your job is like (whether you are sitting, standing, or moving throughout the day) and what hobbies you enjoy. This will impact your recovery process and highlight any potential risks of complications. They might also ask about habits like smoking and your diet.

Lumbar Disc Replacement Compared to Alternative Treatments

Even if you are considered a good candidate for lumbar disc replacement, your surgeon might want you to try a series of other treatments first to see if they can improve your spinal health. These are often more affordable and less invasive than disc replacement surgery. Alternative treatments include physical therapy, low-impact exercise, stretching, heat and cold therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes.

Many patients are able to reduce their spinal discomfort without needing surgery. However, if you try these alternative treatments and still experience high levels of pain, your doctor might recommend moving forward with disc replacement.

Lumbar Disc Replacement Compared to Spinal Fusion

If you are not a good candidate for disc replacement, your doctor might recommend spinal fusion. While this operation may result in less mobility in your spine, it can also effectively reduce your pain levels and help you return to your favorite activities. Fusion has been a common surgical option for several years and many doctors can perform this operation confidently.

Ask your doctor about spinal fusions versus artificial disc replacement for personal health.

Select a Skilled and Experienced Surgeon

Not only do you need to feel confident that you are making the right decision with lumbar disc replacement, but you also need to trust the surgeon who is operating on your spine. Make sure you work with an experienced surgeon who is a leading expert in disc replacement.

Dr. Todd H. Lanman, founder of the Advanced Disc Replacement Spinal Restoration Center, has firsthand experience with back pain. He has personally undergone eleven spinal surgeries (four cervical and seven lumbar) and worked through the recovery process each time. He understands the pain you are in because he has felt it before.

Dr. Lanman’s passion for spinal health fuels his drive to be one of the best disc replacement surgeons in the country. He has a 30-year track record of success and published multiple peer-reviewed articles and book chapters on this subject.


Decide Whether Lumbar Disc Replacement is Right for You

There are several benefits of lumbar disc replacement. This surgery is minimally-invasive and an effective way to reduce your pain levels while increasing your mobility. However, it isn’t right for everyone. Some people might be averse to the risk or they might not be good candidates for the operation.

Every patient is unique, so make the best decisions for your individual needs. To learn more, consult with medical professionals and spinal experts in your area. You can ask detailed questions about your spinal health and openly discuss your options. Start your journey to reduced back pain today. Request a consultation with Dr. Lanman to learn more.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who is not a good candidate for lumbar disc replacement?

Doctors often want a patient to be in good overall health before approving them for surgery. Your surgeon will evaluate any other medical conditions you may have – especially those related to your spine and nerves – before moving forward with artificial disc replacement. They may ask you to make some lifestyle changes (like increasing your exercise levels) in order to become a good candidate.

Can you live a normal life after a disc replacement?

Every patient is different and will experience different levels of recovery. However, many people who experience disc replacement live normal lives within a few weeks to months after recovery. Many athletes can even return to their peak performance levels after the operation.

What is the life expectancy of an artificial disc?

At a minimum, your artificial disc should last 30+ years.Depending on the materials used and your overall health, this disc replacement could be a permanent solution to your back pain.

What are the potential alternatives to lumbar disc replacement?

If you are not ready for lumbar disc replacement, consider non-invasive options like physical therapy, epidural steroid injections, and anti-inflammatory medications. If your pain levels do not improve, you might want to pursue disc replacement or spinal fusion, which is another surgical alternative to receiving an artificial disc.


Ready to reclaim your life? Get in touch today.