Artificial Disc Replacement - Recovery Time
Artificial disc replacement recovery time is much less than that of fusion. Patients with normal bone growth have bony in-growth into the artificial disc replacements completed in approximately six weeks. However, the rate is not linear. Fifty percent of the bony in-growth occurs within two weeks. Whereas, in fusion completion of the bone fusion can take upwards to two years, good fusions can take shorter times. In the interim the skin (two weeks) and the muscle (another two weeks) have completed their healing in normal patients.
Nerves can be less predictable. In most cases patients with radicular nerve damage recover almost immediately, but some patients, especially those with long term damage (over two years) may recover more slowly.
Some patients also experience (in both in artificial disc replacement and in fusion surgery) what is called distraction pain. This is the stretching of the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the spine when the normal disc height is restored with the artificial disc replacement or fusion cage is inserted between the vertebrae. In time this pain will dissipate.
Pain medication is used to moderate distraction and nerve pain during recovery, if necessary. Indeed, it is preferred by the doctors to do so, because it will prevent pain chronification, a neurology condition of the brain.