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When chronic back pain appears to sabotage your every move, it can be frustrating and feel hopeless. According to studies, an estimated two out of three people in the world will experience low back pain at some point in their life. When conservative methods are unable to combat low back pain, surgical intervention may be necessary.

When patients have exhausted conservative treatment methods to address low back pain they turn to EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region for guidance on lumbar total disc replacement in North Carolina. Our fellowship-trained surgeons are here to help provide you with everything you need to know about the benefits of lumbar disc replacement surgery and how to Emerge Stronger. Healthier. Better.

Lumbar Total Disc Replacement in North Carolina: Is it for You?

When discussing total disc replacement for the lumbar spine, it is important to understand that not all causes of back pain are appropriate for this procedure. One of the most common conditions addressed with lumbar total disc replacement is age-related disc degeneration due to arthritis (osteoarthritis). A herniated disk, pinched nerves, or spinal stenosis, for example, while all capable of causing back pain, are not treated with disc replacement.

While there are a number of ways your back can be impacted by pain, two common conditions that produce low back pain include:


As previously discussed, osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. In the spine, osteoarthritis causes wear and tear to the joints in the vertebrae. In addition to degenerative disc disease due to aging, there is also inflammatory or “rheumatoid arthritis.”

A less common form of arthritis that affects the spine includes ankylosing spondylitis. This is a type of arthritis that affects the sacroiliac joints located close to the pelvis and hip joints. In addition to pain, patients diagnosed with Ankylosing spondylitis can experience stiffness and inflammation.

Disc Herniation

When a lumbar disc ruptures or “herniates,” pressure is placed on the spinal nerves causing back pain. For this condition, however, a lumbar total disc replacement is not an appropriate surgical method. Instead, a spine surgeon performs what is referred to as a discectomy procedure to relieve pressure on the nerve root.

Conservative Methods For Treating Low-Back Pain

Prior to considering surgical intervention for your low-back pain, your EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region Spine Specialist may suggest one or more of the following conservative treatment methods:

  • Short term rest (24 to 48 hours)
  • Physical therapy
  • Activity modification
  • Heat or ice
  • Massage
  • Chiropractic care
  • Over-the-counter medications (non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs NSAIDs or Acetaminophen)
  • Topical patches and pain creams
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapies
  • Lumbar corsets
  • Electrical stimulation therapy

While the previously mentioned non-surgical options are designed to address symptoms, they are not considered permanent treatment solutions.

When your surgeon has isolated the cause of pain (ruling out muscle strains, fractures, stenosis, simple disc herniation, or a severe arthritic condition) at one or two levels of disc issues, you may be considered a candidate for lumbar disc replacement.

What Is Lumbar Total Disc Replacement?

Lumbar total disc replacement is a surgical procedure that utilizes an artificial disc to replace a worn and damaged disc. Artificial discs range in design and material. Artificial discs are made to mimic and replicate the motion of your body’s natural disc. They are made of different materials, both polymers and metal. Most artificial discs are similar in composition to the material used in total hip and knee replacements.

Five Things You May Not Have Known About Artificial Lumbar Disc Replacement

Artificial lumbar disc replacement offers patients several benefits. Whereas the more standard lumbar fusion surgery has been used for many decades, fusing the vertebrae into a single bone, artificial disc replacement simply exchanges a damaged disc for an artificial replacement that mimics the same size and function.

The ultimate intent of lumbar disc replacement is to remove the primary source of pain (the “pain generator”) and preserve and attempt to restore motion at the diseased disc level. It is thought by many surgeons that when you fuse one level, you place stress on the adjacent levels, which may promote or accelerate degeneration of adjacent discs resulting in recurrent pain.

In addition to potentially restoring motion, here are other aspects of lumbar disc replacement you may not have realized:

  1. Candidates for Artificial Lumbar Disc Replacement Share These Qualifications
    Back pain resulting from one or two intervertebral lumbar discs; poor outcomes from conservative treatment methods; the absence of symptomatic facet joint disease and bony compressions on spinal nerves; no previous major lumbar spine surgeries, no diagnosis of scoliosis or other deformities of the spine.
  2. Surgical Time is Less Than You Would Likely Expect
    In the experienced hands of our EmergeOrtho Spine Surgeons, having done over thousands of anterior lumbar disc procedures, it can take as little as an hour for L5/S1 disc replacements, and one hour to one-and-a-half hours for L4/5.
  3. Hospital Recovery Generally Does Not Last Long
    Provided that pain is properly managed and under control and the surgery went as planned, most patients are released from the hospital the day after surgery.
  4. Activity is Encouraged Shortly After Surgery
    Your surgeon will likely have you up and walking the day of your surgery! In fact, the earlier activity is resumed, the better and faster the recovery process. Your surgeon will provide you with some activity restrictions as well as helpful rehabilitative exercises and stretches during the initial stages of healing.
  5. Outcomes are Often Positive and Alleviate Pain
    Relief of your low-back pain is typically not immediate. However, studies have shown, and our experience supports that 75% to 80% of patients see relief with an average pain reduction from seven to eight out of ten down to two or three out of ten. In some cases, our patients will report having a zero to one out of ten pain ratings.

Road to Recovery

It is important to be patient and understand that it can take over six months to see full benefits from total disc replacement. Around six to eight weeks, patients often are allowed to resume full activity with no restrictions.

Patients often are curious how soon they can drive following lumbar disc replacement surgery. Generally, we release you to drive as soon as you feel comfortable (provided you are not actively taking narcotics/opioids).

At EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region, we are leaders in disc replacements. In fact, we were some of the original US investigators of disc replacement surgery in 2004 and 2005, and have been actively engaged with clinical trials and disc replacements ever since. We were the first practice to perform a lumbar disc replacement in the Triangle Area at the North Carolina Specialty Hospital.

When seeking an expert, trustworthy spine surgeon, it is important to keep in mind that lumbar disc replacement is more technically demanding than lumbar fusion. To do it appropriately, it is wise to seek the care of an experienced surgeon.

It is recommended to consult with a center that has a team approach where the spine surgeon works with an abdominal surgeon that assists in providing access to the lumbar spine. This reduces the risk of complications.

To learn more about lumbar total disc replacement in North Carolina, schedule a consultation with an EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region doctor now. Or, call us any time at 919-220-5255.