Why this spine surgeon says the future is bright for artificial disc replacements

Ariana Portalatin -  

As designs improve and the cost advantages become clear, patients and providers may in the future choose artificial disc replacements over other kinds of surgeries, according to Jack Zigler, MD. 

Dr. Zigler is an orthopedic spine surgeon and co-director of the Center for Disc Replacement at the Texas Back Institute in Plano. He joined the "Becker's Healthcare Spine and Orthopedic Podcast" to discuss how he sees the future of artificial disc replacements evolving.

This is an edited excerpt. Listen to the full episode here.

Question: How do you think lumbar disc replacement will evolve in the future?

Dr. Jack Zigler: I think that lumbar disc replacement is going to be more generally used as time goes on. The payers of the future, whoever they are, whether it's a single payer in the government, or a consolidation of insurance companies or hospital systems, whoever is controlling the healthcare dollar is ultimately going to see a significant decrease in the need for expensive spinal reoperations is in the public good. Reoperation is one of the largest drivers of healthcare economics, so by cutting down the necessity for additional surgery, with the data that we've been able to generate, I think it's going to be a no-brainer for the powers who are controlling the healthcare dollar to recommend disc replacement over fusion. So I think in the future there's going to be even a bigger role for disc replacement than we've seen before. 

Lastly, I think there are going to be evolutionary designs in implant designs, in material science and instrumentation. The discs of the future will be even better than the ones we have available for us today, but we're getting great results and outcomes even with the very early models that we've been using through our FDA study and beyond. The future's really good for this technology, and it's being proven by science, not just by a cheerleader. There is very strong evidence that shows this is the appropriate thing for a patient who has the choice between a fusion and a disc replacement. And as patients become more educated, I think they will continue asking that question, "Why do I have to have a fusion?" 

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