Disc Restoration

Replacement surgery relieves pain without loss of motion.

The car accident that left Michael Koenig with a bad case of whiplash happened so long ago that Michael, now 53, has forgotten most of its details. For as long as he can remember, Michael has had to live with a constant reminder of that crash.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Michael was amazed at how quickly he was able to return to his normal routine following ADR surgery.

“I was maybe twenty-four or twenty-five when the accident happened,” Michael relates. “Somebody pulled out of a convenience store right in front of me somewhere, and ever since, the whiplash I suffered has caused me some neck issues that have gotten progressively worse.
“The worst of it started almost two years ago. I began experiencing this pain that ran all the way down both arms and into my hands, but it was mostly in my right arm. It eventually got to a point where it was nonstop. I was even losing sleep because I was waking up in the middle of the night in pain.
“It was affecting my dexterity, too. I try to be more active than sedentary, and not long before this started, I had started going skeet shooting. After a while, I didn’t feel like I could do that anymore because it was too painful for me to hold the rifle.”
A resource manager for the Charlotte County Community Services department, Michael first tried correcting the problem himself by performing stretching exercises and scaling back on some of his activities. That didn’t work, though.
Neither did physical therapy. Michael spent nearly two months visiting a physical therapist who eventually realized the work he was doing was actually making Michael’s situation worse. That’s when Michael turned to Advanced Orthopedic Center for help.
“I’ve actually been a patient of theirs before,” Michael says of Advanced Orthopedic Center. “I’ve had a couple of sports-related injuries and was referred to them by my insurance company. When I called about this problem, I was referred to them again.”
Upon his return to Advanced Orthopedic Center, Michael met with Gregory P. Gebauer, MD, who had last treated Michael for some lower back problems in 2013. Michael’s latest issue presented the doctor with a whole new challenge.

Feeling the Pinch

“Michael’s MRI showed that he had a significant disc herniation at C5-6 that was actually narrowing the nerve tunnel,” Dr. Gebauer reports. “The disc herniation itself was what was causing his neck pain, but it was also pinching the nerves as they exited the spine.
“That was what was causing the pain to run down into his arms and even his hands. By the time I saw Michael again, he had been dealing with this for about a year, and it was something that was getting progressively worse.”
Dr. Gebauer began his treatment of Michael’s neck and radiating arm pain by prescribing yet another round of physical therapy. When that failed to deliver the desired results, Dr. Gebauer recommended surgery to replace the damaged discs.
“There are medications that can be tried, and sometimes steroid injections will help, but the surgery is really the best option for someone who is young such as Michael,” Dr. Gebauer states. “In those cases, it can be done on an outpatient basis.”

“It was amazing how quickly I felt relief from the pain I was having in my neck and arms and how quickly I was able to get back to my normal routine.” – Michael

The surgery Dr. Gebauer recommended is called artificial disc replacement, or ADR, which includes the removal of the problematic discs and the replacement of those discs with artificial discs.
Dr. Gebauer says surgeons have traditionally performed a fusion surgery on patients such as Michael where the problem discs are removed and the vertebrae are fused together to heal into a single, solid bone. There is a drawback to that surgery, however.“The limitation of that surgery is that it takes away motion,” Dr. Gebauer educates. “The motion loss is only about one or two percent each year, but over ten, twenty, thirty years, there’s a risk of the next level wearing out and having other problems in the future.
“The disc replacement option preserves the motion in the discs, and it allows us to get that pressure off the nerves while you still have normal motion. And hopefully, those other levels aren’t going to wear out as much.”

Back to Normal

ADR surgery is performed through a small incision made in the side of the throat and takes about an hour to complete.
Dr. Gebauer says patients who undergo ADR surgery typically experience a significant reduction in neck and arm pain within two weeks.
“For me, the recovery was even quicker than that,” Michael states. “I felt immediate relief. The doctor warned me that there might be some post-surgical soreness in my neck, but my post-surgical pain was nonexistent.
“I know I sound like a commercial, but for me, it was amazing how quickly I felt relief from the pain I was having in my neck and arms and how quickly I was able to get back to my normal routine. I didn’t have any downtime at all.”
Michael says the surgery has allowed him to expand his list of activities. He has not yet returned to skeet shooting, but he says that is in the plans for the winter and spring months, when it gets a little cooler outside.
“I have no regrets whatsoever about having the surgery,” Michael enthuses. “All the pain and stiffness in my neck is gone, and I don’t have any pain or numbness running down my arms and hands anymore.
“I knew I was doing the right thing by going back to Advanced Orthopedic Center to have this taken care of. They took care of me when I had my back problems, and they took care of me again when I had a neck problem. I highly recommend them.”

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    • Advanced Orthopedic Center

      Whether you are a professional or collegiate athlete, an active retiree, a "weekend warrior," a high school football star or a hard-working employee anxious to make a difference, the Advanced Orthopedic Center is here to help you feel better a... Read More

    • Gregory P. Gebauer, MD

      Gregory P. Gebauer, MD, is a Board Eligible Orthopedic Spine Surgeon. He joined Advanced Orthopedic Center in August, 2010. He is a fellowship trained spine surgeon who specializes in operative and non-operative treatment of spinal disorders a... Read More