UC Davis neurosurgeon implanting artificial cervical discs

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- UC Davis Medical Center is among a small number of hospitals in the nation implanting artificial cervical discs in patients with degenerative disc disease.

"We are seeing an evolution in spine surgery," said Kee Kim, assistant professor and chief of spinal neurosurgery. "The current standard of treatment is rather crude in that it changes the mechanics of the spine and may cause stiffness in the neck. The artificial implant is designed to preserve motion, and could potentially eliminate complications with fusion."

This is the first time artificial cervical discs have been implanted in patients in Sacramento. Patients with degenerative disc disease are participating in a randomized clinical trial comparing the current standard of treatment -- replacement bone and spinal fusion -- with an artificial cervical disc, an all-metal prosthesis intended to maintain motion. The trial is being conducted at 35 clinical sites around the country. Nationwide, 550 patients will be enrolled in the study over a period of two years.

During the past three weeks, three patients received artificial implants at UC Davis Medical Center, including Sacramento resident Kathy Cregan.

"The patients who received the artificial cervical discs had very disabling neck pain that caused headaches and tingling and numbness in the arms. Sometimes pain or tingling even extended into hands. All of the patients had tried non-surgical treatment without success," said Kim, principal investigator of the study.

Spinal discs are gel-like cushions that act as shock absorbers between the vertebrae in the spine. Herniation, which results from disc degeneration, injury or heavy lifting, can cause a portion of the cervical disc to be pushed out of place and press on adjacent nerve endings connected to the arm.

Patients who meet the criteria for the study are being randomized to either spinal fusion or artificia

Contact: Janet Dolan
University of California, Davis - Health System

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