For patients like Ashley Wilson, 34, of Sandwich, Illinois, artificial disc replacement can address serious and debilitating cervical spine issues with a quick recovery and without limiting mobility or requiring another surgery years later.

Herniated discs, compressed nerves and other debilitating neck problems have been traditionally corrected through a surgery called anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF), a procedure that removes an injured disc from the cervical (neck) region of the spine and fuses together the bones above and below the disc. While effective, the fusion can unfortunately limit mobility for some patients and often requires reoperation years down the road.

Now, surgeons have developed a motion-preserving surgical method that replaces injured discs with an artificial disc made of metal, plastic or a combination of both. This takes pressure off the bones above and below the injured disk, better preserving that patient’s movement and lessening the chance the patient will need reoperation years later.

“If we can do something that alleviates the patient’s symptoms and circumvents the need for more surgery down the road, then a cervical artificial disc is a pretty good option,” says M. Kamran Khan, D.O., a neurosurgeon with Endeavor Health Medical Group.

Over the last five or six years, Dr. Khan has performed an increasing number of artificial disc replacements. “Artificial discs really mimic true disc movement,” he says. “Patients with artificial discs have similar or better pain and symptomatic relief long-term compared to ACDF procedures.”

This is why, according to Dr. Khan, artificial disc replacement has become a great option for certain patients as compared to ACDF for cervical spine surgery. “When patients who had fusions five or 10 years ago need reoperation, that can potentially lead to more complications,” says Dr. Khan. “The number one benefit of artificial discs is the potential to avoid further surgery down the road.”

Dr. Khan performed two artificial disc replacements on Wilson, a former employee of Endeavor Health Edward Hospital. Wilson hit her head in a fall at home, compressing her spine. She began experiencing neck pain, soreness and numbness in her arm. “It was starting to really affect my day-to-day life and work,” she says.

After a course of steroids did not help, her primary care physician sent her to neurosurgery at Endeavor Health Edward Hospital for an MRI. The scan showed a large bulging disc compressing Wilson’s spinal cord.

Wilson then had a consultation with Dr. Khan, who showed her a second bulging disc that she had for years without knowing it.

Dr. Khan recommended that Wilson opt for artificial disc replacement, explaining it would preserve her range of motion and that it would be very unlikely she would need a second surgery years later. “Everything he said about it made me feel really comfortable,” says Wilson.

After her surgery, Wilson recovered quickly and has seen tremendous improvement. “When I woke up the pain was instantly gone from my arm,” she says. “A week later, I was pretty much back to normal.”

M. Kamran Khan, D.O., is a neurosurgeon with Endeavor Health Medical Group. View his profile and schedule an appointment online.