How long can I expect my new disc replacement to last?

Disc replacements or artificial discs are fairly new on the scene. The idea has been around for 35 years, but most designs have never made it to the market. Of the ones that have been made, used, and studied, results are limited to the past 10 years.

In Europe where artificial discs have been used longer than in the United States, plastic implants show little to no wear after 10 years. Researchers estimate the discs will last longer than total hips or total knees. Motion in the disc is far less than what's present in the hip or knee joint. This may account for the minimal wear seen.

One disc implant called the Charité artificial disc has specially coated plates to help bone grow around the plate. This will help hold it firmly in place. The plates come in five shapes to match the patient more closely.

Special moveable parts allow it to slide forward and back slightly during motion. This helps in case the implant is positioned just slightly off center at the time of the operation when it's put in place.

All of these features will help disc replacements last 20 years or more--perhaps even for a lifetime!