When physical therapy and drugs fail to relieve back or neck pain, patients often turn to spinal fusion surgery as a last resort.
But now, a new study has suggested that replacing the two worn out, unmanageable pain causing adjacent discs in the low back with artificial ones can be a viable alternative to standard fusion surgery.
The results have come after a two-year analysis of post-surgery data from a randomized, multicenter trial.
The study compared overall results from a disc replacement patient group with those of a fusion group. Those comparisons found the two therapies comparable in terms of outcomes deemed favorable, but Rick B. Delamarter, vice chair for Spine Services in the Department of Surgery, said individual patient outcomes suggest the disc replacement operation may have advantages.
"Overall, 24 months after surgery, patients in both groups had less pain and were able to reduce their use of medication, but the percentages were higher in the disc replacement group," Delamarter said.
Seventy-three percent of disc replacement patients met the study's pain improvement criteria, compared with less than 60 percent of the fusion patients. Of these, only 19 percent in the disc replacement group continued to need narcotics for pain, compared with 40 percent in the fusion group. Also, more disc replacement patients said they were satisfied with their outcomes and would choose to have the surgery again," he added.
The article also reported that disc replacement operations were quicker and resulted in less blood loss, hospital stays were shorter and patients experienced more rapid improvement.
The study was recently published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery.