Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) occurs when one or more intervertebral discs degenerate or lose their natural cushioning. It can be caused by a variety of factors including repetitive trauma and genetic factors as well. Often time it occurs alongside other conditions and can lead to conditions such as disc bulging or spinal stenosis.
Degenerative Disc Disease
Factors involved in diagnosis include moderate or severe disc height loss. This is diagnosed by X-ray or MRI. The doctor then evaluates the location and quality of the back or neck pain to determine if the degenerated disc is actually generating the patient’s pain. Based on the findings, the doctor will recommend a treatment option.
Treatment for DDD is primarily conservative. The majority of patients with significant pain generally improve with time with non-surgical treatments such as oral medications and/or physical therapy. A short period of immobilization with a soft neck brace (cervical collar) may also be helpful. Steroid injections are usually not effective unless there are other associated spinal conditions such as spinal stenosis, herniated disc, etc.
Patients who do not benefit from conservative treatments and still have disabling degenerative disc disease pain are considered candidates for surgery. The surgery for isolated DDD is anterior cervical fusion or artificial disc replacement. When the disease involves more than just a disc, the entire vertebrae may be removed. This procedure, a cervical corpectomy, is often done to treat stenosis with spinal cord compression caused by bone spur growth. A bone graft fusion may also be required.
- Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (Intervertebral Spacer) Watch Video