Surgeons from the Spine and Back Center at Rush University Medical Center are now offering the first artificial cervical disc approved by the FDA and are studying additional new devices to help reduce pain while preserving the motion of the spine.

One of the primary problems causing back pain is the degeneration of one or several discs that provide a flexible cushion between the vertebrae. For many years, the most common surgical solution has been fusing the vertebrae together to stop motion in the area and reduce pain.

Spinal fusion is a highly successful operation for relieving symptoms; however it eliminates natural movement between the vertebrae. For this reason, surgeons are studying a number of artificial discs that are designed to replace the damaged disc and reproduce the biomechanics of the natural vertebral joint.

One of the new options for patients is the Prestige Cervical Disc, the first artificial disc commercially available in the United States for use in the neck. Made of stainless steel, the device has two components, a ball on top and a trough on the bottom that are inserted into the disc space and attached to the vertebrae on either side.

"These component function like a joint, replicating the physiological motion and alignment of a natural intervertebral disc," said Dr. John O'Toole, a neurosurgeon at Rush. "The results to date have been impressive."

Surgeons at Rush are also participating in clinical trials of a number of other artificial discs for the neck that will later be reviewed for FDA approval including the Cervitech PCM Disc, the Cervicore Artificial Cervical Disc, and the Discover Artificial Disc.

The PCM is constructed of two metal endplates surrounding a special grade plastic core, which allows the upper endplate to move over, across, and around it.

"In an effort to create a more natural motion pattern, the PCM is designed to be constrained only by the surrounding muscles and ligaments as opposed to by the implant itself," said Dr. Frank Phillips, an orthopedic spinal surgeon at Rush.

The Cervicore Artificial Cervical Disc is a metal on metal design that is saddle shaped to match the contour of the cervical vertebrae.

"The Cervicore disc attempts to replicate the normal motion pattern of the neck with it's unique design feature and does not have an anterior flange which could potentially prohibit additional disc placement in multilevel pathology," said Dr. Edward Goldberg, an orthopedic spinal surgeon at Rush.

The Discover Artificial Cervical Disc is a ball and socket design made of titanium and polyethylene.

"The Discover artificial disc is the only disc replacement currently undergoing FDA clinical investigation for use at multiple levels of the spine. This makes the device unique and applicable to many more patients who otherwise would not be candidates for a cervical artificial disc," said Dr. Kern Singh, an orthopedic spinal surgeon at Rush.

These researchers are pooling their knowledge, exchanging opinions and sharing observations about the different artificial discs being studied. The goal is to bring leading-edge therapies to patients today, not decades from now.

"As both physicians and researchers, the doctors at Rush are involved in translational research, that is, research that is immediately applicable to diagnosing and treating patients with spinal disorders," said Dr. Howard An, director, division of spine surgery at Rush University Medical Center.

The Spine and Back Center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago brings together the expertise of highly trained neurosurgeons, orthopedic spine surgeons and physiatrists (medical doctors who specialize in physical medicine) in one location. The experts collaborate to pinpoint and treat the source of spine, back and neck pain while offering the latest, most innovative nonsurgical and surgical treatment options.

Rush University Medical Center