Cervical disc surgery is usually done through an incision in the front of the neck for two reasons. First, there is a natural pathway to the disc between the carotid artery and the esophagus and trachea. Second, the spinal cord is located between the back of the neck and the disc space.
The main disadvantage with the anterior approach is most of the disc must be removed. Therefore, the patient not only needs the discectomy, but they also need some way of reconstructing the disc space. We now have two options to do this: cervical fusion and cervical disc replacement.
The main advantage of disc replacement is preservation of motion. The artificial discs are designed to behave similarly to a real disc. This is thought to decrease stress on adjacent levels and the need for more surgery in the future.
Cervical disc replacement is currently approved for one and two levels in the United States.