I'm looking into the possibility of having a disc replacement. I have two degenerative discs with lots of pain that never goes away. What happens if the disc doesn't work or wears out?
Artificial disc replacements (ADRs) are used for degenerative disc disease. They reduce pain and restore the natural height of the disc. They also allow more normal spinal motion, which wouldn't be possible with spinal fusion.

ADRs have been in use for the past 20 years in Europe and 10 years in the United States. Mid-term studies are reporting good to excellent results. Long-term studies are just becoming available.

Successful ADR revisions have been reported. However, inserting the disc anteriorly (from the abdomen) requires the surgeon to find and move the major blood vessels. Doing this a second time in order to remove the first ADR and insert a replacement has some significant risks.

As technology continues to advance better imaging is now available for locating blood vessels and nerve tissue. Improved surgical methods may also help reduce the risks involved with ADR replacement revision.

If revision isn't possible for any reason, then spinal fusion is a final option. The spine can be stabilized with this treatment approach. However the patient does lose some spinal mobility.