Just when you thought that the spinal fusion operation was going out of “style” comes a newer version that is called the total disc replacement. It is a total intervertebral body joint replacement. This unit is made of titanium metal, the type of metal that promotes bone growth. It is said to last fifty years, so it can be used at any time in a person's injury, not just for a person who is at advanced age.
The idea is to restore motion, movement, in the spine. The old fusion reduces motion. As one surgeon told me, “motion is lotion”. Sounds corny, but movement preserves the spinal column. It was designed for movement.
Anyone who has a herniated disc is eligible for this total disk replacement. But, so are those who have degenerative disc problems, and that is most of us. The FDA has approved the use of the total disc.
The total disc looks like a metal cage. It is a system of trusses. Three levels at a time can be fused, if need be. No bone graft is needed. The screws for the implant are getting better and better over time. The cage is filled with cartilage, phosphorous, and calcium. This type of operation can restore disc height and will relieve spondylosis by restoring stability in the spine.
I do hope that the injured worker will be given the opportunity to have this operation available to them. Typically, the insurance doctor who operates from time to time tends to perform minimalist operations designed to cost as little as possible and to take as little time as possible to heal so the worker can get back to work more quickly. Nothing wrong with that, but let's give the worker the best opportunity with the best equipment.