Scripps Mercy Surgeons Implant Artificial Cervical Disc

Scripps Mercy Hospital spine surgeon Jean Jacques Abitbol, M.D., along with co-investigator Sohaib Kureshi, M.D., chief of Neurosurgery at Scripps Mercy Hospital, is participating in a nationwide clinical trial for the implantation of artificial cervical discs. Dr. Abitbol, the lead investigator for this national study, performed his first artificial cervical disc surgery in San Diego in March.


The procedure is available only to surgical spinal fusion candidates who have volunteered for one of 30 patient spots in the San Diego site study. More than 25 sites throughout the country are enrolling approximately 400 patients, who will be treated under strict FDA guidelines, stringent inclusion and exclusion criteria and followed for five years following surgery. The device is the first all-metal disc specially designed for the cervical spine and is constructed of a cobalt chromium molybdenum alloy in an effort to reduce wear and tear and the need for further surgeries. It is hoped that the artificial disc will restore and preserve motion, and prevent the development of disease in areas next to the degenerative disc.


Patients are randomly placed in experimental or control groups, with the experimental group receiving an artificial disc and the control group receiving cervical fusion. Both treatments are administered at one vertebral level with very similar surgical approaches through the neck. The artificial disc procedure removes the diseased cervical disc and replaces it with an artificial disc. The cervical fusion procedure removes the diseased disc and replaces it with a bone graft held in place with a plate and screws, allowing the bones to fuse over time. All patients will remain in the hospital for one to two days after surgery and are expected to recuperate within eight to twelve weeks.


Spinal discs are flexible spacers that connect vertebrae, permitting mobility and shock absorption in the spine. Disc degeneration occurs through the natural aging process or injury and may result in pain and spinal cord-related symptoms like upper extremity pain and/or neurological deficits. The cervical spine is especially susceptible to degenerative disease because of its range of motion, anatomical location and vulnerability to injury.

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