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Spine Treatments

Cervical Disc Replacement

A spinal disc is a soft, cushion-like structure between the cervical spine vertebrae. It provides flexibility and shock absorption. When a disc is damaged or degenerated, it can cause chronic pain, reduced mobility, and poor quality of life.

Cervical disc replacement is a surgical procedure that involves replacing a damaged or diseased cervical spinal disc with an artificial disc. It aims to restore the natural function and range of motion of the spine while alleviating pain. Studies report that cervical disc replacement is safe and effective for the treatment of both one-level and two-level cervical degenerative disc disease, and in two-level surgeries, it has been shown to be superior to cervical fusion.

The standard approach to replacing a cervical disc involves removing the disc and fusing the upper and lower vertebrae. However, when two bones that once moved independently are fused, the degeneration of the discs above and below the fusion accelerates. Artificial cervical disc replacement is intended to and restore the properties of a healthy disc to avoid additional stress on adjacent discs caused by fusion.

A good candidate for cervical disc replacement is someone who has ongoing neck pain due to disc disease that negatively affects function and quality of life and who has failed to find relief with six weeks of conservative management.

  • Patients with painful cervical degenerative disc disease in a single or two contiguous levels between C3 and C7 lead to pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility.
  • Patients with cervical radiculopathy have significant discomfort from a herniated disc or degenerative disc changes that compress a nerve root to cause pain, numbness, and weakness that radiates into the arms and hands.
  • Patients whose condition is linked to specific problems with the discs in their neck.
  • Patients who have neurological deficits, including changes to reflexes, problems with coordination and gait, and even disturbances in bowel and bladder function.
  • Patients must not have severe spinal instability, significant bone disease, or active spinal infections.

Cervical disc replacement surgery is performed under general anesthesia. Dr. Ball will access the spine through an incision on the front of the neck. He will carefully remove the damaged disc and prepare the space for the artificial disc. Dr. Ball will use a specially designed artificial disc that he will insert into the space where the natural disc was located. This disc is meant to mimic the size and function of the natural disc. The incision is closed over a drain with absorbable sutures.

Recovery from artificial disc replacement surgery can vary but typically involves:

  • Immediate Postoperative Period: Patients may walk after Procedures are often performed on an outpatient or overnight stay basis.
  • Physical Therapy: Rehabilitation begins soon after surgery, focusing on gentle activities and exercises to enhance flexibility and strength. Physical therapy is crucial and typically continues for 4-6 weeks.
  • Pain Management: The surgeon prescribes medications to manage pain after surgery, which are typically tapered off as recovery progresses.
  • Long-term Care: Patients are generally advised to avoid high-impact activities and heavy lifting for several weeks. Follow-up visits are necessary to monitor the healing process and the integration of the artificial disc.

Cervical disc replacement is a state-of-the-art motion preservation surgical procedure to treat disc-related neck pain caused by degenerative disc disease and disc herniation. According to a ten-year review, it is a proven effective alternative to traditional spinal fusion, with single-level trends to better outcomes and double-level superiority over single and double-level cervical fusion. Disc replacement is a safe and effective option when you have been diagnosed with disc pain in the neck.

Contact Dr. Hieu Ball to schedule a consultation at his San Ramon. He offers a full range of treatments for neck pain. Dr. Ball offers state-of-the-art patient-centered care for patients with neck, mid-back, and low-back problems. He received his orthopedic surgery and spine surgery residency and fellowship training at Harvard Medical School and UCLA-affiliated institutions. Education included training at Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Boston Children’s Hospital. Dr. Ball is a double fellowship-trained orthopedic spine surgeon. He received a pediatric spine fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital and a second adult spine fellowship at UCLA. Dr. Ball offers minimally invasive spine care, and many procedures often may be performed on an outpatient basis in an ambulatory surgical center setting.


  • https://www.aans.org/Patients/Neurosurgical-Conditions-and-Treatments/Artificial-Cervical-Disc
  • Leven D, Meaike J, Radcliff K, Qureshi S. Cervical disc replacement surgery: indications, technique, and technical pearls. Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med. 2017 Jun;10(2):160-169. doi: 10.1007/s12178-017-9398-3. PMID: 28493215; PMCID: PMC5435629.
  • Nunley PD, Hisey M, Smith M, Stone MB. Cervical Disc Arthroplasty vs Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion at 10 Years: Results From a Prospective, Randomized Clinical Trial at 3 Sites. Int J Spine Surg. 2023 Apr;17(2):230-240. doi: 10.14444/8431. Epub 2023 Apr 6. PMID: 37028803; PMCID: PMC10165661.
At a Glance

Dr. Hieu Ball

  • Double fellowship-trained orthopedic
  • Orthopedic surgery residency at Harvard Medical School
  • Over 20 years of spine surgery experience
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