What types of surgery are available?
A common way to replace a herniated disc is to perform an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. This removes the injured disc, replaces it with a spacer, and locks movement in that joint. However, in addition to limiting movement, this approach requires the joints above and below. The fusion to work harder, which can lead to arthritis and additional surgery. It’s also not recommended for people who smoke. That’s because nicotine use can constrict blood flow to the bones, and injured bones don’t heal as well without an adequate blood supply.
Another surgical option is disc replacement surgery, which replaces the disc but doesn’t fuse the bones together. During this minimally invasive procedure, a small incision (about 1.5 inches) is made in the front of the neck. Soft tissue in the throat is moved to the side to gain access to the disc, which is removed and replaced with an implant that closely mimics the natural function and movement of your own discs. There are a variety of implants, which are made of materials including titanium, ceramics, and high-tech plastics.