Toward the end of 2004, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officially approved the practice of total disk replacement.

Sky Ridge Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. John Barker stepped up immediately. He performed the first newly authorized operation in Colorado at Sky Ridge Medical Center.

Living with Chronic Back Pain Caused by Disk Problems

At some time in their lives, nearly 80 percent of Americans suffer from back pain, often caused by disk problems. The spine is comprised of 33 vertebrae separated by a cartilage-like disk, which acts as a shock absorber up and down the spine. These disks can be damaged through trauma or disease, or simply degenerate over time.

When they do, it hurts. Sometimes, it's debilitating.

Back Pain Treatment Options

Disk Replacement

The most common treatment for an otherwise untreatable disk problem has been spinal fusion, which involves removing the disk and bridging the adjacent vertebrae with a piece of bone, usually grafted from the patient's pelvis.

The problem with fusion has been that even though the procedure alleviates back pain, it leaves the patient with a section of immobility along the spine, and can cause additional stress on adjacent disks.

Disk Replacement Surgery for Back Pain

Using an artificial disk roughly the size of a double-thick Oreo cookie – with the outside made of cobalt-chrome and the inside made of medical-grade plastic – to be consistent Barker says, "We can eliminate pain and preserve or even enhance motion at the lumbar (lower) spine."

Faster Back Surgery Recovery

Dr Barker

Another welcome improvement with total disk replacement is that Barker can gain access to the spine from the front of the body, rather than the far more damaging posterior approach required in fusion surgery.

As a result, patients leave the hospital sooner, and can usually resume normal activities – including playing tennis or golf, and even skiing – within six-to-eight weeks, compared to nine months required after traditional operations.

"I'm very familiar with hip and knee replacement technology" Barker says, "and for certain patients, I know total disk replacement is an exciting new option."

Total Disk Replacement Contact Information

For more information on the orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons at Sky Ridge, please call (720) 225-5DOC.