Poquoson resident Ronald Thompson had a numbing pain radiating down his arm, and everyday activities became a challenge.
“I never would have guessed the pain in my arm was caused by my spine,” said Thompson. “When you’re six feet tall, you tend to crane your neck. My neck didn’t hurt, but it was affecting my body in other ways.”
Arthritis can cause deterioration of the cervical disc, which serves as a shock absorber between bones in the neck. If pain persists, as in Thompson’s case, surgery is the best option. Traditionally, a spinal fusion is performed. The procedure removes the damaged disc and uses a bone graft to fuse together sections of the spine, addressing the pain. However, this approach limits the range of motion in the neck and can put pressure on the discs above and below the fusion, putting them at risk for damage.
Alternatively, patients can undergo an innovative new procedure – cervical disc replacement. Thompson chose this approach, and Jeffrey Carlson, MD, performed the Peninsula’s first cervical disc replacement at Bon Secours Mary Immaculate. The procedure removes the disc that has been damaged and replaces it with a device that serves as a shock absorber. With this procedure, the spine resumes its normal range of motion, and mobility is restored.
Within a few days, Thompson was back to normal. “Even in recovery, the focus is on motion,” said Dr. Carlson. “Rather than staying immobile to heal, this surgery requires patients to begin to put the disc to use. ”