As an alternative to a more invasive spinal fusion surgery, a lumbar disc replacement surgery removes a damaged disc in the lower spine and replaces it with an artificial disc. Lumbar disc replacement surgery was first approved by the FDA in 2004. Today, lumbar disc replacement surgery boasts better outcomes in terms of range of motion and ability, than fusion surgeries. Moreover, it offers many clinical advantages when compared to fusion surgery. Read on for everything to know about artificial disc replacement surgery for chronic back pain.

About the Surgery

A lumbar disc replacement is aptly named. It describes exactly what the surgery involves. During this procedure, a small incision is made in the abdomen. By accessing the spine from the abdomen, your spine surgeon does not have to move nerves, as they do when accessing the spine through an incision in your back.

After the incision is made your spine surgeon will gently move aside your organs to remove the damaged, deteriorated, or diseased disc in the lumbar spine. An artificial disc will be implanted and secured in the spine. The surgery only takes a few hours.

In some cases, the procedure may be performed as an outpatient procedure at a surgical center. Others may have the surgery performed in a hospital setting and spend a day or so recovering in the hospital.

You will likely be encouraged to stand within a day of surgery. You’ll begin a series of exercises and stretches to promote recovery.

Conditions That May Be Treated with a Lumbar Disc Replacement

Nearly all people suffer from low back pain at some point in their lives. Occasional back pain may be disabling for a few days. By contrast, a worn (degenerated), displaced, or severely damaged disc in the spine causes chronic pain that can significantly reduce the quality of your life.

Lumbar disc replacement surgery is only recommended to treat chronic pain in the back caused by:

Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease occurs when significant wear and tear on a disc in the spine erodes the cushioning between the vertebrae. This erosion of the disc can potentially lead to worsening conditions including disc herniations, bulging discs, spinal stenosis, and spondylolisthesis.

Herniated, Bulging, or Ruptured Disc

A herniated disc, which may also be referred to as a slipped disc, bulging disc, or ruptured disc occurs when a portion of the nucleus of the disc protrudes into the spinal canal. This protruding portion compresses nerves, leading to chronic lumbar pain.


Discogenic Pain

Discogenic pain is an umbrella term for all pain stemming from a problem with a disc in the spine. The disc may be bulging, thinning, or developing bone spurs. When conservative treatments fail to alleviate discogenic pain, an artificial disc replacement may be considered.

Benefits of Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery

Replacing a damaged lumbar disc with an artificial disc offers benefits such as:

  • Maintaining your range of motion
  • Preserving the correct anatomical structure of the spine
  • Reduction or elimination of chronic back pain
  • Less stress on nearby discs
  • No need to harvest grafts or bone
  • Faster recovery time when compared to fusion surgery
  • May be performed as an outpatient procedure

Is a Lumbar Disc Replacement Right for Me?

Replacing a disc in the lumbar spine will only be recommended when all non-surgical treatments and therapies have failed to provide relief from pain. Patients who are best suited for this type of spine surgery include those who:

  • Experience pain due to one or two damaged discs in the spine
  • Are not excessively overweight
  • Do not have significant joint disease
  • Do not have significant nerve compression
  • Do not suffer from scoliosis or another spinal deformity
  • Are healthy enough to undergo surgery

Book a Consultation for Chronic Low Back Pain in Los Angeles

Dr. Alen A. Nourian is a leading SoCal Orthopedic Surgeon and Spine Specialist. He performs lumbar disc replacement surgeries for patients suffering from chronic back pain, who have not responded to non-surgical treatments. Dr. Nourian is a top-reviewed Spine Specialist on Google. To book a consultation with Dr. Nourian, contact us today at 805-416-1777.