Total Disc Replacement Surgery
I had this surgery at the Alpha Klinik in Munich, Germany on 14 November 2003. Dr. Willem S. Zeegers was my surgeon and will forever be my hero.

Background information - How I got to the point where I needed surgery and why I decided to go to Germany to have this particular procedure. 

Post Operative X-rays - See the Bionic Dan's new back!

When is a disc prosthesis suitable?
A disc prosthesis is suitable for patients who are not older than 65, when one lumbar disc is severely degenerated. A prosthesis is also suitable for patients with ongoing back problems following an open disc operation. A discography is usually done in advance to determine which disc is causing the pain.

What does the disc prosthesis procedure involve?
The degenerated disc is replaced and at the same time the normal distance between the two vertebrae is restored. A mobile polyethylene disc is supported on both sides by stainless steel plates. During the procedure, which is performed from the front, the prosthesis is firmly inserted resulting in immediate stability. The prosthesis allows normal motion between the vertebrae. Thus, the adjacent discs are not over-stressed as they are after a fusion operation. Note: Dr. Willem S. Zeegers joined the Alpha Klinik - Munich in August 2000 and is a disc prosthesis specialist with over ten years of experience in implanting artificial discs in the Netherlands.

What post-op care and rehabilitation is required?
Two hours after the procedure, the patient can walk to his room. In the majority of cases, there is only minor post-operative pain. Most patients can be discharged three to five days after the operation. The patient is then allowed to sit, walk, drive a car or ride a bike. Six weeks after the procedure there are no more restrictions on physical activities.

Is this an experimental procedure?
As as with all surgical procedures, this was an experimental procedure in its beginning, but the Link-Charite disc prosthesis (see picture) has been in use for 15 years now. However, only a few spine surgeons have learned the precise technique of this operation. These surgeons experience very few serious complications. In fact, the complication rate in the hands of these very experienced surgeons is less than for a regular fusion operation. In follow-up studies over the last ten years, no signs of wear have been determined and the incidence of loosening is very rare.

Can complications occur?
Very rarely, complications such as vascular problems may occur: However, there is always a vasco-surgeon on standby to control eventual bleeding. The infection rate is very low. Regarding thrombosis, after their post-op check, the patient receives anti-coagulative protection for two weeks, and before discharge an ultrasound check is performed to rule out a possible thrombosis.

3D Animation of a Total Disc Replacement
This animation shows in detail the procedure of implanting a disc prosthesis and the animations are accompanied by text descriptions. The goal of the disc prosthesis is to relieve pain caused by problems and pinched nerves in the lower spine. The diseased disc is replaced by special metal and polyethylene implants.