Lumbar Spine Surgical Treatment Options

How do surgery options for the treatment of DDD compare?


The traditional surgery for treating DDD has been spinal fusion surgery. In spinal fusion surgery, the unhealthy disc is removed, bone graft or a plastic spacer is placed in the area, and often medical implants (such as rods, screws, or plates) are used to hold the bones in position so that they are stable (see Fig. 1). In some cases, the bone for the graft is obtained from the patient's hip bone through a separate cut. After surgery, bone is supposed to grow between the two vertebrae, creating one solid piece of bone. The goal is to permanently fuse the vertebrae together so that they cannot move except as a single unit and therefore reduce the movement of that part of your spine. If you have fusion surgery, it may take away your pain, but you may have less motion in your back.

Nonfusion Option

Another option your doctor may consider is surgery with an artificial disc replacement device (see Fig. 2). The activL Artificial Disc is one artificial disc replacement device. The activL Artificial Disc has been developed to provide pain relief while potentially still allowing motion of your lower back (lumbar spine). In an activL Artificial Disc procedure, after the unhealthy disc is removed, it is replaced with the activL Artificial Disc alone (no bone graft or plastic spacer).

Medical illustrations showing fusion surgery with boned graft or plastic spacer vs. activL Artificial Disc surgery

Lumbar Spine Resources for Patients and Caregivers