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Degenerative Disc Disease - Which Type Of Surgery is Beneficial?

Written and reviewed by
MBBS, MS - General Surgery, Mch - Neuro Surgery
Neurosurgeon, Ghaziabad  •  25 years experience
Degenerative Disc Disease - Which Type Of Surgery is Beneficial?

Degenerative Disc disease or DDD is a degeneration of the intervertebral discs in your spine. It’s not a disease as such but a sign of ageing of your spine. We know that our vertebral column is made up of vertebrae and these are strung together, so to speak, using discs to allow movement. The discs play an extremely vital role in the functioning of the vertebral column by cushioning the vertebrae and stopping them rubbing together which will narrow the spinal canal and impinge on the nerves and blood vessels travelling down. As we get older, the hydration within the discs tends to go and you end up with a drier, thinner disc, which is what DDD is. The DDD can strike anywhere, like the neck region and is known as cervical DDD or lower back region, where is it known as lumbar DDD.

Symptoms

  1. Pain in the part of the spine where the degenerated disc is
  2. Radiating pain into the legs /arms
  3. Weakness
  4. Loss of balance
  5. Sciatica pain
  6. Difficulty walking
  7. Muscle stiffness
  8. Nerve damage

Treatment
Since the condition is painful and the disc is inflamed, your doctor will prescribe you pain meds to bring the pain and inflammation under control.

  1. Spinal fusion surgery : In this surgery, two or more vertebrae in the vertebral column or back are fused or joined to treat DDD. This surgery helps to get rid of the bone and tissue that is narrowing the spinal canal and squeezing the spinal cord and nerves, thus reducing pain and improving function.
    • Approache
      • A number of approaches can be tried though the aim is to stop the motion at a painful vertebral segment, which in turn decreases pain generating from here.
      • One of them involves the surgeons forming a direct bony connection between the vertebrae surrounding the painful discs.
      • Common techniques include fusion of vertebrae approached from the front or the back of the vertebral column.
      • Sometimes surgeons decide to use intervertebral cages or metal screws to provide internal structural support while the bone fuses.
      • The aim is to allow a scaffold on which the bone tissue can grow.
  2. Artificial disc replacement surgery: This surgery involves replacing the painful disc in the vertebral column spine with an artificial disc. This preserves the normal motion of the spine, unlike a fusion. Also, the risk of wear and tear of other vertebrae is limited in this surgical option for DDD and is beneficial in pain reduction 
  3. Other changes that are required: 
    1. Physical therapy is a very important part of treatment for DDD. This works by stretching and strengthening the appropriate muscles through exercise to help take the pressure off the disc. Also, physiotherapy will take away the inflammation from around the affected disc.
    2. Lifestyle changes like becoming more active, avoiding sitting for long and stopping smoking and drinking as both of these dry out your inter-vertebral disc, are highly recommended.
    3. Usually, pain recedes substantially in DDD sufferers in a couple of month’s time, but DDD is by no means an easy condition to live with. It causes irreversible changes in your lifestyle, movement and your daily activities.

In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!

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