The activL® Artificial Disc consists of two endplates made of a mix of metals commonly used in spine surgery (cobalt-chromium metal alloy with a titanium coating) and a plastic (polyethylene) insert that fits between the two endplates.  The plastic insert is flat on the bottom and round on the top and is designed to move as you move during daily activities.

The two endplates are held to the top and bottom surfaces of the involved vertebrae (the bones of the spine), and the plastic insert fits between them.  The activL® Artificial Disc is designed to allow motion at the treated level of the spine as the plastic insert can move from front to back within the metal endplates but not side to side; however, not all patients will achieve motion after treatment with the activL® Artificial Disc.

What may be causing your back and leg pain?

Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD)

Normally the discs between the vertebrae provide the cushioning space the keeps the bones separated.  Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) is a condition that can occur when a disc in your spine no longer functions normally because of aging, wear, or from being injured.  The disc may shrink and lose height which can cause pain or make the spinal joint unstable.  A worn out disc or spinal joint can also press on the nerves that branch out from the spinal cord which may cause leg or back pain when you move certain ways.

DDD can often be treated non-surgically with medications, physical therapy, spinal injections, chiropractic care, braces, exercise programs, or rest.  However, in some cases, the symptoms may not improve or may get worse, and then your doctor may suggest surgery.

How does surgery using the activL® Artificial Disc compare to spinal fusion?

The traditional surgery for treating DDD has been spinal fusion surgery.  In spinal fusion surgery, the unhealthy disc is removed, bone graft or metal/plastic spacer is placed in the area, and often medical implants (such as rods, screws, or plates) are used to hold the bones in position so that they are stable.  After the surgery, bone is supposed to grow between the two vertebrae, creating one solid piece of bone.

The goal is to permanently fuse the vertebrae together so that they cannot move except as a single until and therefore reduce the movement of that part your spine.  If you have a spinal fusion surgery, it may take aware your pain, but you may have less motion in your back.

The Center for Disc Replacement Surgery at AOR may recommend that an activL® Artificial Disc would be an option for you.  The activL® Artificial Disc has been developed to provide pain relief while potentially still allowing motion of your lower back.  In an activL® Artificial Disc procedure, after the unhealthy disc is removed, it is replaced with the activL® alone and no bone graft or metal/plastic spacer is needed.