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What Happens if You Delay Disc Replacement Surgery?

What Happens if You Delay Disc Replacement Surgery?

Disc replacement surgery isn’t typically the first line of defense for back pain, but there is a time and place for this procedure. If you’ve already tried conservative treatments, a disc replacement surgery might be necessary. 

At Spine Group Beverly Hills, Dr. John Regan is a specialist in spinal conditions and offers disc replacement surgery. We want our patients throughout Santa Monica and Beverly Hills to feel empowered by their treatment plan, so we’re always happy to talk to you about your various treatment options, including minimally invasive procedures. 

It’s always important to weigh the pros and cons of surgery before committing, but what happens if you delay disc replacement surgery? Here’s what you need to know about postponing surgery, courtesy of Dr. Regan.

When would you need disc replacement surgery?

When it comes to back pain, the first line of treatment usually involves physical therapy, strength exercises, and lifestyle changes such as losing weight and quitting smoking. If needed, Dr. Regan may suggest medications such as pain relievers or muscle relaxants.

For many people, these conservative approaches can reduce pain and improve functioning. However, if your symptoms are severe, you have pain and tingling in your arms and legs, or conservative treatments aren’t working, it may be time to consider disc replacement.

What is disc replacement surgery?

Disc replacement surgery is a surgery that replaces damaged or diseased spinal discs with an artificial disc. You might benefit from disc replacement if you have herniated or bulging discs or if your back pain is caused by osteoarthritis or degenerative disc disease. 

Spinal discs are located between the small bones (vertebrae) in your spine. During disc replacement surgery, Dr. Regan removes the worn or damaged disc material. Once he removes this material, he inserts a prosthetic disc in its place. 

Unlike spinal fusions, disc replacement surgery relieves back pain without compromising the normal motion of your spine. In other words, disc replacement surgery alleviates back pain, doesn’t hinder spinal motion, and helps restore your quality of life.

Risks of delaying disc replacement surgery

Whenever possible, Dr. Regan incorporates minimally invasive techniques into spine surgery. Minimally invasive techniques tend to produce less post-op pain and bruising, less bleeding, shorter recovery, and shorter hospital stays. Although minimally invasive surgery carries fewer risks than open surgery, it’s still important to weigh all of the pros and cons.

If Dr. Regan advises you to have disc replacement surgery, there could be some general risks associated with putting the procedure off. For instance, if a herniated or damaged disc causes severe spinal cord or nerve compression, a delayed surgery can lead to irreversible damage if it’s postponed too long. 

The more nerve compression you have, the more likely you may experience increased weakness, balance issues, and loss of bladder and/or bowel control. When nerve compression is severe enough to compromise the nerves that control the bladder and bowels, it’s called cauda equina syndrome. While it’s not life-threatening, cauda equina is a medical emergency.

Not to mention, the longer you delay surgery, the longer you’ll deal with the pain and discomfort associated with a damaged disc. Whatever you decide, Dr. Regan can advise you about the risks of delaying your specific disc replacement procedure. 

If a damaged or diseased spinal disc causes pain, don’t put off treatment any longer. To learn more about disc replacement surgery, book an appointment with Dr. Regan at our Santa Monica, California office today.

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