Medical Media Images

Monday, May 12, 2014

What is an Artificial Disc Replacement of the Neck (Cervical Spine)? Shown and Explained with Color X-Ray Images

Artificial Disc Replacements (ADR) are designed to replace a herniated or degenerated Disc. They are used in the neck (cervical spine) and low-back (lumbar spine). Single or multiple Discs can be replaced by an ADR.

The Color MRI Image below shows a Disc Herniation of a Cervical Disc in red. Notice how the Disc material has been pushed out from the center of the Disc, towards the Spinal Cord seen in yellow. Each Vertebra has been numbered. The herniated Disc shown is located between the 5th (C-5) and 6th (C-6) Vertebrae. It is therefore called the "C5/6 Disc".
It is important to see the relationship of the Cervical Disc to the Spinal Cord. Large Disc herniations in the neck can cause irritation/inflammation or even compression/injury to the Spinal Cord.

Sagittal Color MRI of a Cervical Disc Herniation and Spine Anatomy
Color MRI Image of  the whole body, showing a magnified but-out of a Cervical (Neck) Disc Herniation

The next Image is a Color X-Ray which shows a patient who received two Artificial Disc Replacements (ADR) of the neck (cervical Spine). The patient is shown bending the neck forward and backward. You can see how the ADR's open and close with the bending of the neck. Contrary to Fusion Surgery, where the Vertebrae are immobilized, ADR's are designed to preserve the neck's mobility.

Color X-Ray Images of Cervical Artificial Disc Replacements
Color X-Rays of a patient with two ADR's in Flexion/Extension (forward/backward bending)

The Color X-Ray Image below shows that ADR's can also be used next to a Fusion. In this Image, the Fusion is shown by the black plate. Bone can be seen growing between the two Vertebrae which are connected by the titanium plate. ADR's shown in blue have been placed above and below the Fusion.

Lateral Cervical Spine Color X-Ray showing Artificial Disc Replacements
Color X-Ray Image of ADR's implanted above and below a Cervical (Neck) Fusion
While ADR's were designed to be an improvement over Fusion Surgery, science is not yet conclusive that these Devices have better long-term outcomes than Fusions. While it seems intuitive that the motion provided by the ADR's would be better than the lack of motion provided by a Fusion, ADR's do have a limited life span and may have to be replaced. Another important consideration for the future will be to determine if ADR's can protect other Discs next to them from degenerating.

There are a number of different ADR Devices on the market, each with their own design. The ideal Device would mimic the motion and consistency of a Normal Disc as closely as possible.

Color X-Ray and Color MRI Images like the ones shown above can be licensed at

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