Health Team

Artificial Disk Can Take Away Neck Pain, Restore Motion

Pain in people’s necks can get in the way of everything they do.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Pain in people’s necks can get in the way of everything they do.

Surgery is often the only option. That used to mean fusing neck vertebrae together, which limits motion. Now, the first FDA-approved artificial disc can take away the pain and restore motion.

Wendy Lockwood likes to stay just as active as her daughters, Camryn and Riley. But for a year, neck pain made everything difficult.

“I was having pain radiating from my neck down to my arm,” Lockwood said.

She had a diseased disc in her neck vertebrae, and bone spurs pinched on nerves. Traditionally, surgery meant removing the disc and fusing the bones together, although there have been experimental artificial discs that try to replace the natural material to restore motion.

“The interface between the bone and the disc is very difficult to imitate,” said Dr. Robert Lacin, a Rex Hospital neurosurgeon.

The Prestige Disc is the only FDA-approved device, and Lacin used it in Lockwood.

From a small incision in the front of the neck, bone spurs were removed. The bone surface was smoothed, and the diseased disc was removed. Then, the stainless steel artificial disc was attached and screwed down to both the upper and lower vertebrae.

“It essentially imitates movement,” Lacin said. “And as you can see, it can move up and down. It can move sideways. It can move forward and backwards a bit as well.”

With neck fusion surgery, it can take six weeks to return to normal activity.

“With this procedure, we let the patient get back to work or do whatever they feel like doing immediately after the surgery, as soon as they feel that they are up to it,” Lacin said.

Healing from the incision took a few days, but Lockwood said she noticed improvement “pretty much immediately.”

“So I would say in four to five days, I was feeling great,” she said.

Since the Prestige Disc was only recently approved by the FDA, many insurance companies have not decided to cover the costs. However, Lockwood's insurance company did cover it.

There was a backlog of patients who want the procedure, but many were waiting for their insurer to agree to cover it. It costs no more than neck fusion surgery, and the recovery costs are much less and the results seem to be much better.


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