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Hello sakshisingh848,

As we age, our vertebral discs, which serve as shock absorbers for the spine, gradually dry out, affecting their strength and resiliency. This can lead to degenerative disc disease (DDD). DDD of the cervical spine is a relatively common condition for aging adults.

In your father's case, the degenerative disease is multi-level because the vertebral discs, C3 through C6 are affected.

There are different alternatives to surgery available for patients with degenerative disc disease and pain. Avoidance of painful positions and/or use of a neck brace are all options to try to reduce tension by the affected discs. Various pain management options including anti-inflammatory medications, steroid pills, injections around the nerves or epidurals can be tried.

If non-surgical options fail to treat the symptoms, surgical intervention may be helpful. Depending on the diagnosis, an anterior or posterior decompression and fusion can be performed. The goal of surgery is typically to take the pressure off the nerves and stabilized the degenerated levels.

The traditional surgical technique for reduction or elimination of pain from degenerative discs is spinal fusion. It can be done from a posterior approach with screws and rods in the spine and adjacent bone graft or anteriorly with removal of the disc and placement of graph materials in the front. Sometimes surgeons will choose to place implants both in the disc and the screws from a posterior approach.

With painful degenerative discs that cannot bear the patient's weight without severe pain, spinal fusion is highly successful in eliminating pain. One of the long-term consequences of disc fusion can be accelerated degeneration of adjacent discs. That is, discs that are degenerating at levels above or below the fusion can be adversely affected, leading to more rapid degeneration of those discs than might have occurred without the adjacent fusion.

A newer option used to maintain motion in the degenerative level is cervical disc replacement. As compared to the gold standard of anterior cervical decompression and fusion (ACDF), the disc replacement technology theoretically decreases the risk of wearing out the disc above and below the treated level by preserving motion.

Your father's surgeon can offer you and your family the best estimated prognosis based on your father's health status.


August 16, 2012 - 4:15pm


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