Millions of Americans suffer from pain and stiffness in the neck and back, which frequently results in radiculopathy (pain in the arms caused by a pinched nerve) or sciatica (pain in the lower back caused by a pinched nerve).
While conservative therapies like anti-inflammatory drugs and physical therapy often resolve pinched nerve pain, some individuals need surgical care. For years, the gold standard in repairing the slipped (or herniated) discs in the neck was a procedure known as cervical discectomy and fusion. During this procedure, the damaged disc is removed and bone grafts or implants were used to improve stability and strength, though patients had to sacrifice some mobility.
A New Standard In Neck & Back Surgery
“Unfortunately, a fused section can put pressure on adjacent discs above or below,” explains John Klekamp, M.D., a spine surgeon at The Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee. “That can happen upwards of 10-20% of the time within eight to 10 years after the surgery. In order to address that concern and maintain more natural physiologic motion, a cervical disc arthroplasty has been developed in the last 15 to 20 years. It was originally developed for the lumbar spine (lower back), and subsequent technology is now used for cervical (neck) disc replacement.”
This minimally invasive approach to treating herniated discs in the neck and lower back does not involve fusion, and can be done in the outpatient setting at The Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee. The outpatient facility is fully equipped with fluoroscopy capabilities (live radiologic imaging) and advanced microscope technologies.
Real Results for Patients With Neck and Back Pain
“Most short- and long-term studies show a faster return to work, less pain after the surgery, and less chance of adjacent segment disc degeneration when using a cervical disc arthroplasty,” explains Dr. Klekamp. Patients enjoy natural movement sooner after this procedure (when compared to a surgery involving fusion).
“I used to counsel younger patients facing a fusion surgery to anticipate having another surgery within five to 10 years of their initial surgery. But now we have 12 year data on this new approach, and it’s very promising,” says Dr. Klekamp.
A Better Option for Younger Patients
While cervical fusion surgeries are still commonly used and appropriate for many older patients, cervical disc arthroplasty, a newer alternative to spinal fusion, can be an excellent alternative for younger patients who do not have arthritis or other bone or joint-related conditions.
“The traditional spinal fusion can cause problems down the road for younger patients,” says Casey Davidson, M.D., a spine surgeon at The Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee. “This approach minimizes risk of needing further surgery. It’s often a good option for patients in their 30s or 40s with radicular pain or nerve pain.”
Better Outcomes Through Better Pain Management
With the recent addition of anesthesiologist Katherine Dobie, M.D., and her team at Specialty Anesthesia of Tennessee, patients are experiencing even better outcomes at Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee. “She does a fantastic job,” explains Dr. Davidson. “She uses a combination of pre-op and intraoperative medications to decrease nerve pain. The result is less nausea and vomiting, constipation, grogginess, and mental changes. Post-operatively, the anesthesiologists use a similar concoction of an anti-inflammatory/muscle relaxant with minimal narcotic.”
“Dr. Dobie has really advanced the techniques used in our operating room,” adds Dr. Klekamp. “She has minimized the amount of narcotics patients get so they’re a little brighter when they wake up and not as sluggish. We get patients up and moving quicker, which yields better results, and the pain control is better by getting patients moving.”
Special COVID-19 Precautions
The Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee remains fully open while taking special precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic, including patient and employee screening and frequent cleaning. Learn more on their COVID-19 FAQ page or by watching the following video.
Outpatient Spine Surgery at The Bone and Joint Institute