The Fusion Alternative: Cervical Disc Replacement Surgery


Considering surgery to treat a problem cervical disc? Patients now have access to a new procedure to replace problem discs that offers faster recovery and greater mobility than traditional treatments.

A new device called Mobi-C® Cervical Disc helpsfusions-not-the-only-option-for-cervical-disc-replacement-surgery recipients maintain neck motion and reduces the risk for further damage to the spine. This poses a great improvement over typical fusion procedures, which stop movement of the neck around the problem area and often require additional surgery.

A Brief History of Cervical Disc Treatment

Disc problems arise when the cushioning disc between bones in the cervical spine becomes damaged from overuse, an accident, or daily wear and tear. Discs either:

  • Become thinner and less able to cushion movement; or
  • Bulge or herniate, pinching the spinal cord and/or nerves. This can cause loss of feeling, weakness, pain, or tingling in the arms and hands.

The traditional treatments for a damaged cervical disc, Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusions (ACDF), involve:

  • Removing the problematic disc.
  • Placing a bone spacer or a plastic implant to restore disc height and remove pressure on the pinched nerves or spinal cord.
  • Installing a metal plate and screws to hold the implant in place, thus fusing, or preventing movement in, the segment of spine.

Unfortunately, fusions present two major potential issues:

  • Loss of motion.
  • Additional stress on the spine above and below the fusion, which may in turn require more surgery.

The Advantages of Mobi-C

In contrast, Mobi-C artificial discs directly replace diseased discs. Through one- or two-level applications, the disc maintains bone spacing and removes pressure, all without requiring a plate and screws for stability.

Mobi-C offers several advantages over fusions:

  • Because Mobi-C can slide and rotate inside the disc space, it more closely mimics the spine’s natural movements.
  • Such flexibility reduces the pressure between the implant and surrounding vertebrae.
  • Fixing Mobi-C in place doesn’t require chiseling and drilling into other bones in the spine, like some discs do. It also minimizes the need for bone removal.

Proven Success Rates

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clinical trials confirmed that Mobi-C at two levels proved superior over fusions. Trial participants who received two-level cervical disc replacements returned to work three weeks earlier than patients who received fusions. Seven years after the procedure, they also required less follow-up treatment than fusion patients.

Even one-level disc replacement offered some improvement over fusions, with recipients returning to work one week sooner than fusion patients.

Experts expect the number of cervical disc replacements being performed to keep growing due to:

  • An ever-growing library of clinical evidence showing the long-term safety and efficacy of cervical disc replacement.
  • Increasing proof that two-level cervical disc replacements are superior to fusions, including: lower rates of degeneration around the operation site and additional surgery being required, and greater improvement of neck disability.
  • More private insurance coverage for cervical disc replacements.

Considering Mobi-C?

Mobi-C is the first FDA-approved cervical disc in the U.S. to treat more than one level of the cervical spine. It is one of the world’s most widely used artificial discs, implanted more than 75,000 times in 25 countries since 2004.

Mobi-C is intended for adult patients with pain and/or neurological symptoms at the C3-C7 levels. Patients should only consider Mobi-C after having failed non-surgical care such as physical therapy or medications for at least six weeks, or experienced worsening symptoms.

Make sure to consult a doctor when considering surgery. If your doctor does recommend spine surgery, here are some steps you can take to prepare.