LONG BRANCH, NJ – When 36-year-old Freehold resident Christopher Applegate began feeling pain in his shoulder, neck and down his arms, he thought it might just go away. But then his head started to lean to the right and he couldn’t straighten it out. When he lost the feeling in his fingers, he knew something was wrong.
Applegate was diagnosed with a herniated disk in his neck. Monmouth Medical Center neurosurgeon David Estin, MD, said the disk in Applegate’s neck was pressing on a nerve and his spinal cord, causing the pain and loss of feeling.
In a ground-breaking procedure at Monmouth Medical Center on May 2, Applegate underwent cervical disk arthroplasty, or artificial disk surgery to replace the disk in his neck with a synthetic one – the first FDA-approved clinical artificial disk procedure in Monmouth County.
Before the evolution of artificial disk surgery, patients often underwent spinal fusion surgery, Dr. Estin said. “Traditional surgery involved removing the diseased disk, then fusing the vertebrae together with a bone graft.” The problem with this type of surgery is that patients lose motion where the vertebrae were fused together. The fusion can also result in increased stress on other disks.
Dr. Estin said the benefits of artificial disk surgery are many. “With an artificial disk, the patient’s range of motion is preserved because we don’t have to fuse the vertebrae together,” he said.
The patient also experiences a much shorter recovery because they do not have to wait for spinal fusion to occur. “Patients return to near-normal activities in a much shorter time, two to four weeks,” Dr. Estin said. With traditional spinal fusion surgery, patients need to recover four to six weeks.
Prior to surgery, Applegate was in “excruciating pain.” Medication only lessened the pain very slightly and epidurals for pain relief didn’t work. But since the surgery, Applegate said he is feeling “much better” and is virtually pain-free. He experienced some post-operative pain, which Dr. Estin said is normal, but aside from a little temporary soreness in his neck, Applegate is back to the routine of his daily life.
“Because I had this type of surgery, I didn’t need physical therapy,” Applegate said. “The pain is gone from my neck and arms and the feeling returned to my fingers. I have complete mobility now.”
For more information on artificial disk surgery at Monmouth Medical Center, call 1-888-724-7123.
Date: September 10, 2008
CONTACT: Kristine A. Brown
Director of Public Relations
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