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Artificial Disc Replacement

At A Glance

  • Artificial disc implants are only used to treat primary painful degenerative disc disease.
  • Because of poor results and risk of complications, most spine surgeons have moved away from artificial disc implants in the lumbar spine.
  • Artificial disc replacement treats Degenerative Disc Disease.


Although artificial disc replacement (ADR) became commonly available in the 1990s in Europe, the FDA did not approve them for use in the United States until 2004. These are large implants that involve at least two or more components made of metal and plastic. Artificial discs were initially developed as an alternative to spinal fusion in hopes of reducing or eliminating degenerative discs while still maintaining full flexibility of the spine.

The FDA’s approval initially generated much excitement over ADR, but enthusiasm for Artificial Disc Replacements has waned due to:

  • Less than optimal results
  • Complications with the devices, including difficulty and danger in removing one that fails
  • Reluctance of insurance companies and Medicare to pay for implants due to inconsistent data and results


The American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons urges consumers to be cautious in considering ADR, issuing a statement that clinical studies of the device were inadequate.

Frequently Asked Questions

I have a morphine pump to treat my degenerative disc disease? Is there any surgery you could recommend?
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