Artificial disc replacement in Europe is now becoming one of the most sought-after medical procedures by medical tourists. Aside from their need of surgery, which of course they can opt to have in their own countries, the low costs and excellent medical care by European spine surgeons are the factors that convince them to travel so far. Add to that the prospect of some sight-seeing in the continent widely regarded as a haven of natural beauty and architectural structures, and it is no wonder why Europe is quickly becoming one of the leaders in the medical tourism race.
What is Artificial Disc Replacement?
In order to discuss artificial disc replacement as a procedure, let us first find out the basics, discussed below.
Natural Disc and Artificial Disc
- A disc is actually a structure located between the vertebrae.
- The consistency of discs is like a cartilage, and their main function is to act as a cushion for the bones in the spine so that they are protected during body movements like bending down or arching up the back.
- When a natural disc is damaged, artificial disc replacement is a great option for a person to get back to normal movements and activities.
- Artificial discs are also called disc prosthesis, spine arthroplasty devices, or simply disc replacements.
- They are implanted into the spine to replace the natural disc, mostly performed by qualified neurosurgeons or orthopedic surgeons.
- Artificial discs are made of metal or biopolymer materials, sometimes even a combination of these two.
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Who Needs Disc Replacement Surgery?
- The usual complaint of disc replacement candidates is neck or back pain. However, as with other spinal surgeries, disc replacement is not recommended at the onset of diagnosis.
- The doctor will try to have a patient exhaust all other methods like physical therapy, medication, and other treatments for at least six months before he will resort to having a patient undergo surgery.
- If the pain is still constantly bothering the patient, affecting the quality of his daily living and activities, the doctor can then recommend artificial disc replacement if the cause of pain is found to be due to a degenerative disc in the spine, which is typically diagnosed after an MRI and other tests.
Requisites for Spinal Treatment in Europe
Patients who want to go to Europe for spine surgery have to send their MRI images for the doctors to evaluate their case even before they arrive. This helps them in planning the treatment after studying the specific case at hand. Of course, others may choose to just walk in, but everything can be made smoother when correspondences have been exchanged prior to the visit.
Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery: The Procedure
- The degenerative disc is removed and the artificial disc is implanted in its place.
- The implants are put into place by pressing two metal plates, one above and another one below the space where the natural disc was located.
- Currently this procedure can be performed in the lumbar region (lower back), and in the cervical region (neck) of the spine.
Spinal Fusion vs. Disc Replacement
- Before disc replacement became an option, most patients suffering from disc degeneration preferred to opt for spinal fusion surgery.
- In this process, instead of implanting an artificial disc, the surgeon fuses two vertebrae together to limit the movement, thus also eliminating the pain.
- Spinal fusion usually requires the patient to only engage in very limited activities after surgery, giving the bone graft in between the vertebrae some time to grow and fuse.
- However, disc replacement has offered a whole new set of benefits aside from eliminating pain, and that is the shorter recovery time that allows a person to be able to go back to normal activities much sooner.
Features of Spine Surgery in Europe
- There are a lot of experts who have trained around European countries and even in North America who practice spinal surgery in Europe.
- Countries like Spain and Turkey are able to offer more affordable medical services for quality work, which is at par with that in first world countries like the United States and United Kingdom.
- The spine surgery facilities in Europe are very competitive and advanced, using the latest technologies in order to ensure that patients are given the best possible care while undergoing treatment and after the procedure.
- European countries like Spain and Turkey are also beautiful places to explore. Medical tourists take advantage of this by including some sight-seeing activities in their itinerary.
Assistance for Spine Surgery in Europe
Should you as a patient decide to work with a medical tourism agency in order to ensure a smooth and seamless medical trip to Europe, here are a few tips to remember to find the right one:
- A legit and reputable agency, working with doctors and hospitals with impeccable reputation, credentials, and experience.
- A concerned agency will have representatives who respond quickly and on time, and can answer most questions about a trip, and seek for answers from the hospital or doctor for those that need their advice.
- Should a patient request for one, a good medical tourism company will also be able to arrange a phone conference with the surgeon.
- It may also be possible to connect patients to hotels and transportation services for their convenience.
Seeking Spinal Procedures in Europe? Helpful Tips:
After having scheduled to undergo total disc replacement in Europe, what are other things a patient has to keep in mind?
- Bring someone with you. Whether it is a sibling, spouse, or child, moral support is needed by any patient undergoing a medical treatment.
- Coordinate with the medical tourism agency and the hospital for recommendations from the surgeon about possible pre and post-operative diet and care. This way, you can be ready to bring along anything you might need for these times.
- Research about the weather in the country you are going to, and climate changes. You must carry appropriate clothing for whatever temperatures you will encounter while there.
- Most agencies and hospitals will prefer that medical tourists pay with credit card or cashier’s checks. This is also to ensure that patients do not have to unnecessarily carry big amounts of cash while travelling. Ask your agency as to the best way to carry your money with you.
- Before leaving, make sure you have a list of the phone numbers of the hospital, medical tourism agency, doctor or patient coordinator of the hospital, the airport, the airline, hotel, and other parties you might be dealing with while in Europe.
The most important tip for someone undergoing an artificial disc replacement in Europe? Relax, and enjoy. You are choosing to leave your comfort zone so you can experience a different culture and environment, so remember that you are not only there to undergo surgery, you are going to have it while on vacation.