Overview of disc arthroplasty—past, present and future

Acta Neurochir (2010) 152:393–404. DOI 10.1007/s00701-009-0529-5

Degenerative disc disease is one of the most frequent spinal disorders. The anatomy and the biomechanics of the intervertebral disc are very complex, and the pathomechanics of its degeneration are poorly understood. Despite this complexity and uncertainty, great advances have been made in the field of disc replacement technology, with promising results. Difficulties are continuously being encountered, but careful analysis of the results and intensive research and development will assist in countering these problems. There are approximately 40 clinical reports in the literature describing various aspects of randomised controlled trials involving intervertebral disc arthroplasty. However, the majority of these publications do not provide reliable information, in that they give only interim results and/or the results from just one of the many centres in multicentre studies. Such publications must be interpreted with caution, since they do not always represent the results of the whole study population and may hence be underpowered. We identified six randomised controlled trials that compared the final clinical outcomes of disc arthroplasty and spinal fusion. The present systematic review attempts to give an overview of the current status of disc arthroplasty.