Trading a diseased disc for an artificial one
Larry Naylor, a 61-year-old Decatur Utilities employee, lived with agonizing neck pain for many years. To provide relief for his chronic and severe pain, Naylor asked his primary care physician for a referral to the same physician who had treated his sister’s back pain – Cyrus Ghavam, MD, at The Orthopaedic Center.
Naylor suffered from degenerative disc disease, a common condition that occurs when the discs in the spine break down. Degenerative disc disease is in part hereditary, and normal wear and tear as a person ages is also a major cause. People who repeatedly lift heavy objects without proper technique can also injure spinal discs.
“I was doing well after my second fusion (surgery) but then was involved in a car accident about four years ago, and the pain became unbearable,” Naylor said.
Dr. Ghavam concluded that Naylor was a good candidate for artificial cervical disc replacement. “The artificial disc allows treatment of the herniated disc without doing another fusion,” said Dr. Ghavam. “It preserves range of motion and may reduce the likelihood of an adjacent disc undergoing degeneration, which is especially useful for younger patients.”
The procedure begins with a small incision on the front of the neck. Under a surgical microscope, the surgeon removes the abnormal disc to take pressure off the spinal cord and nerve root. The correct size artificial disc is then implanted under live X-ray. Physical therapy after surgery involves range of motion exercises, and most patients return to light activities within three weeks.
Naylor said he experienced immediate relief after surgery. “I was up and walking within hours,” he said. “I returned to work with no restrictions, and I’m able to continue gardening. Having the artificial cervical disc replacement has made a huge difference.”
Dr. Ghavam said patient satisfaction with this type of procedure is very high. “This technology has been used in Europe for about 10 years and was FDA approved a few years ago in the U.S.,” said Dr. Ghavam. “My patients’ results in more than 30 cases have been excellent.”
Huntsville Hospital is the only hospital in Alabama to be named among America’s top 100 best hospitals for spine surgery in 2015. “North Alabama is fortunate to be home to high-quality services provided by TOC Spine Center and the Spine & Neuro Center,” said Jeff Samz, Chief Operating Officer for Huntsville Hospital Health System.