Scripps First in San Diego to Offer New Surgery for Neck Pain

Scripps neurosurgeon Frank Coufal, MD , is the first in San Diego to perform a newly approved two-level Artificial Disc Replacement for the treatment of cervical spinal degenerative disc disease. An alternative to spinal fusion, the procedure was approved by the FDA in August and preserves range of motion while eliminating neck pain, arm pain, arm weakness or numbness.

Artificial disc replacement surgery removes damaged or diseased spinal disc pads, which act as cushions between the bones of the spinal column. During surgery, the discs are replaced with a mechanical device at one or two adjacent levels of the spinal vertebrae. This approach preserves a patient’s natural range of motion in the neck and might eliminate or reduce the need for additional surgeries, unlike a spinal fusion that shifts stress and strain to adjacent discs.

“For patients experiencing neck and back pain due to degenerative disc disease, artificial disc replacement surgery has provided excellent results for more than 10 years,” said Dr. Coufal. “Now we can offer artificial disc replacement for two levels of the cervical spine, which will greatly benefit patients who, until now, were faced with a spinal fusion that would limit their neck range of motion or nothing at all.”

With spinal fusion, two bones in the spine are fused together when the diseased disc is sacrificed. While it can reduce pain, there is a 25 percent chance that additional surgery will be needed within 10 years because the discs above and below the fused bones can prematurely degenerate. Unfortunately, having additional fusion surgery can further reduce mobility of the spine.

Physicians at Scripps have extensive experience with artificial disc replacement and were the first in California to perform the procedure at Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas in 2001. Since then, the surgeons at Scripps have been involved in multiple clinical trials and FDA studies, as well as the development and training of new replacement disc devices for both lumbar and cervical spine surgeries.

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Kristin Reinhardt

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