June 11th, 2009

Great River Medical Center is one of the first hospitals in Iowa to offer artificial disc replacement surgery in the cervical spine (neck) and lumbar spine (low back). The surgery is performed by Doug Foster, M.D., Great River Spine Clinic.

"Great River Medical Center is always looking for new technology to improve patient care, and this is one of those things," Foster said.

The bones in the spine, called vertebrae, are separated by small, gel-filled discs that maintain space to support motion and allow nerves to pass through the spine to many parts of the body. When they deteriorate or rupture, nerves become pinched. In some cases, after therapy and conservative care, spinal fusion surgery was the only option to reduce or eliminate pain.

"For the first time, there is a really good alternative to spine fusion, which restricts movement," Foster said.

After extensive clinical research, total disc replacement surgery in the cervical spine was approved for use in the United States in late 2007. Total disc replacement surgery on the lumbar spine was approved in 2005. Dr. Foster completed intensive training programs and has performed both procedures.

The artificial disc implant consists of top and bottom metal plates with a plastic inlay that forms a joint. The top plate pivots over the insert to provide movement. Preserving motion between the vertebrae can help a person keep his or her balance and maintain natural body mechanics, which may slow degeneration of nearby discs over time.

Not everyone is a candidate for an artificial disk replacement. For more information about this procedure or other questions about spine health, please call Great River Spine Clinic at (319) 768-3320.