Artificial Disc Replacement

Artificial Disc Replacement

Low back pain is a significant cause of disability in the U.S. and worldwide. It is estimated that 70% to 80% of people will experience low back pain at some point in their lives.


Artificial disc replacement is a newer surgical procedure for relieving low back pain. Similar to hip or knee joint replacements, a disc replacement substitutes a mechanical device for an intervertebral disk in the spine. The device is meant to restore motion to the spine by replacing the worn, degenerated disk.

This technology has been available in Europe for over a decade. Artificial disk replacement initially gained FDA approval for use in the U.S. in 2004. Over the past several years, numerous other disk replacement designs have been developed and are currently being tested.

Who Is a Candidate for Disc Replacement?

To determine who is a good candidate for disc replacement, the surgeon may require a few tests. These may include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), discography, computed tomography (CT or CAT scan), and x-rays. These tests will also help the surgeon determine the source of the pain.

Good candidates for disc replacement have the following:

  • Back pain thought to be caused mostly from one or two intervertebral disks in the lumbar spine
  • No significant facet joint disease or bony compression on nerves
  • Not excessively overweight
  • No prior major surgery in the lumbar spine
  • No deformity (scoliosis)