Study Design. Review article.
Objective. To critically review the state of the emerging field of cervical disc replacement.
Summary of Background Data. Although anterior cervical decompression and fusion (ACDF) has been used successfully in the treatment of symptomatic radiculopathy and/or myelopathy, biomechanical studies have reported the deleterious effects of cervical fusion on adjacent level kinematics. Proponents of cervical disc replacement claim that maintenance of motion at the operated level will reduce the incidence of adjacent level degeneration and improve long-term clinical outcomes when compared with ACDF.
Methods. A systematic review of the literature dealing with cervical disc replacement and technologies of arthroplasty design that may have relevance to the cervical spine. A review of the design characteristics and published clinical data for cervical prostheses undergoing Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) study in the United States is provided.
Results. Current cervical disc replacement designs include one-piece implants and implants with single- or double-gliding articulations with either metal-on-metal or metal-on-polymer bearing surfaces. Reports of in vitro wear testing have claimed substantially less wear for cervical implants than that seen with prosthetic hips and knees. Short-term clinical results after decompression and cervical disc replacement for the treatment of cervical radiculopathy and/or myelopathy are encouraging. Prospective, randomized trials are lacking.
Conclusions. Cervical disc replacement is an innovative technology that preserves motion at the instrumented level/s and will potentially improve load transfer to the adjacent levels compared with fusion. Clinical reports of success of cervical total disc replacement are encouraging but are also quite preliminary. As the U.S. IDE studies are completed, a clearer role for the place of cervical disc replacement in the spine surgeon’s armamentarium should emerge.