March 19, 2004 -- A new type of artificial implant may help relieve the neck and arm pain caused by degenerative cervical disc disease and allow free movement of the neck.
New research suggests that a metal-on-metal artificial cervical disc may serve as an effective alternative to spinal fusion for people with the common condition.
Researchers say more than half of people over 40 have cervical disc disease, which is caused by degenerative changes in the bones of the upper neck. The disease leads to symptoms such as neck pain, pain that radiates down the arm, and numbness. This persistent pain also can cause sleeping problems.
The most common from of surgical treatment for the symptoms caused by degenerative cervical disc disease is cervical fusion, which clears away injured or degenerative disc. During this procedure, bone from the hip is grafted onto the area and left to heal with a covered rigid plate. This ultimately limits movement in the neck.
If further studies show that the artificial device is safe and effective in stabilizing the neck bones, it will help reduce the need for cervical fusion.
Artificial Cervical Disc Eases Pain
In the study, researchers evaluated the mechanical stability of the Prestige Artificial Cervical Disc. The device consists of two stainless steel parts that are surgically attached with screws to adjacent spinal bones in the neck .
"The prosthesis simulates the function of a natural cervical [neck] disc," says researcher Russ P. Nockels, associate professor at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, in Maywood, Ill., in a news release.
Researchers tested the disc prosthesis in the lab and found it was able to withstand extreme forces without becoming displaced.
"The disc is strong enough to withstand sudden movement and support the head," says Nockels. "Patients are able to move their head up and down, and from side to side."
In addition, researchers say that several artificial cervical disc recipients involved in clinical trials of the device have been involved in serious motor vehicle accidents, and X-rays of these patients showed the device continued to function normally. But this evidence is only anecdotal, and further research is required before the artificial cervical disc can be approved for use by the FDA.
The study was funded by the device's manufacturer, Medtronic Sofamor Danek, which is a WebMD sponsor.