Medical Breakthrough: New Prosthetic Cervical Disc

October 5, 2007 - Posted at 5:04 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO-The prestige cervical disc is a new prosthetic device that simulates the shock absorption and flexibility of a spinal disc.

"The Prestige Disc is probably going to revolutionize cervical spine surgery," said Dr. John Campbell of St. Bernards.

Because the device is screwed into the spinal column, it's results are more permanent and have less impact than a traditional bone fusion operation.

"On average we expect patients to return to work about 16 days earlier," said Campbell.

Because the product was just approved by the F.D.A. it's still fairly new to much of the U.S., but Donna McMillin of Jonesboro is among the first to try out the new technology.

"It's like I went back to where I was before my accident. I have no pain. My initial pain is gone," said McMillin.

She had the procedure after an accident left her partially incapacitated.

"I could not raise my arm above my head. It felt like it weighed 100 pounds. I had not grip in my hand, or very limited grip," said McMillin.

She says already she's feeling better than her mother who had a fusion several years ago.

"She (her mother) still has a stiff neck and can't move her head as freely as I can even a week after surgery," said McMillin.

That's one of the reasons Memphis-based Medtronic developed the PRESTIGE Cervical Disc.

"Many patients were having fusions and coming back four and five years later needing a fusion at the adjacent level because of the fusion itself," said Justin Stralka of Medtronic.

However, who can and can't undergo this operation?

Doctor John Campbell, the first to perform the surgery in Northeast Arkansas, says it works well for treating long-term degeneration of a disc, but..

"In cases of severe trauma, where there's large grievant stability of the cervical spine, those patients are going to have a traditional cervical fusion performed," said Campbell.

However, with 16 years of research behind the PRESTIGE Cervical Disc, when it can be used the benefits are endless.

"This is a real advance for us to be able to have this technology," said Campbell.

Nearly 250 nationwide have undergone the procedure since its approval by the F.D.A. in July.

Story ideas or comments?  Email Will at


PRESS RELEASE FROM St. Bernards Medical Center 10/05/07

St. Bernards Neurosurgeon Performs First Surgery in Northeast Arkansas Using New Prosthetic Cervical Disc

Dr. John A. Campbell, medical director of The Spine Center at St. Bernards Medical Center, has performed the first neurosurgery in Northeast Arkansas using the new, innovative artificial PRESTIGE Cervical Disc.

The stainless steel surgical implant is designed to treat patients suffering from degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine. It is a prosthetic device inserted between the vertebrae to replace a natural spinal disc. The unique design of the PRESTIGE Cervical Disc allows it to mimic the function of a healthy, natural disc, preserving mobility within the disc space and throughout the treated vertebral segment.

About the Spine

The spine consists of bones, discs, muscles and ligaments. The bones (vertebrae) provide the structure for the spine, while the muscles and ligaments provide support. The discs, located between the vertebrae, function as shock absorbers and influence the flexibility and mobility of the spine.

Each disc is made up of two parts - the nucleus pulposus (a jelly-like inner portion) - and the annulus fibrosis (a strong outer ring that surrounds and supports the nucleus pulposus).

When a disc becomes dried out, compressed or otherwise damaged, nucleus pulposus material may extrude from the annulus fibrosis and press on spinal nerves and/or the spinal cord. The result is neck pain, arm pain, numbness and tingling and/or muscle weakness and is generally referred to as degenerative disc disease (DDD). Natural discs also may dislodge or herniate, causing neck and neurological symptoms.

When non-surgical therapies fail to provide relief, physicians may suggest spine surgery.

In the past, the "gold standard" has been a procedure known as spinal fusion. That surgery creates a bond between two adjacent vertebrae, stabilizing the segment and relieving pain. The well-established procedure has been successfully used for many years, but it has a potential disadvantage - the loss of motion and flexibility in the treated segment of vertebrae.

About the surgery

Dr. Campbell was the first Arkansas neurosurgeon trained to use the new PRESTIGE Cervical Disc as an alternative to spinal fusion. And he successfully performed the first such procedure in Northeast Arkansas last week.

The procedure involves removing a damaged disc, replacing it with the prosthetic disc.

"Patient selection is very important," Campbell emphasizes, adding that the surgery "will benefit patients who present with single-level disc herniation or spur with radiculopathy (disease process which affects the nerve root) or myelopathy (disease process which affects the spinal cord). Candidates for the PRESTIGE Cervical Disc must have had no previous surgery at the level of herniation and must have failed to achieve relief of symptoms with a standard course of non-surgical treatment."

Symptoms include neck pain, arm pain, numbness and/or muscle weakness.

"The FDA-approved PRESTIGE Cervical Disc is the culmination of 16 years of design evolution," Campbell says. "Clinical results of the largest ever prospective, randomized trial involving the cervical spine supported its superior performance when compared to what has been the 'gold standard' for treating patents with single-level cervical disc herniation - anterior cervical discetomy and fusion.

"The PRESTIGE Cervical Disc has been found to have improved clinical outcomes, earlier return to work and preserved cervical motion at the operated level.

"The surgical technique is the same as that used for the anterior cervical discetomy and fusion. Because of that, the physician can choose in the operating room which approach is most appropriate for the patient.

"Most of the time you have a pretty good idea which will be best. But this way, you can wait and literally see which is better."

The surgery itself averages about 1 ½  hours, Campbell says, and the patient is hospitalized overnight. "It generally is about three weeks before the patient can go back to normal activities, though that can vary from patient to patient."

What that means is that the patient who receives the PRESTIGE Cervical Disc cuts his back-to-work time roughly in half, Campbell says.

Campbell estimates that he sees upwards of 100 patients each year who might benefit from the procedure using the new PRESTIGE Cervical Disc.

"The PRESTIGE Cervical Disc is a major advance in the surgical treatment of select patients with single-level cervical disc herniation," the neurosurgeon emphasizes. "I am pleased to partner with St. Bernards Medical Center in offering this innovative treatment to residents in Northeast Arkansas and Southeast Missouri.

About the prosthetic device

The PRESTIGE Cervical Disc is a device made and marketed by Memphis-based Medtronic Spinal and Biologics.

Medtronic received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval to market the artificial disc in July, making it the first artificial disc commercially available in this country for use in the neck.

Its approval followed a multi-center randomized clinical trial to assess safety and effectiveness. Nearly 550 patients were included in the study, with about half receiving the PRESTIGE Cervical Disc implant and the other half undergoing traditional spinal fusion. At 24 months, statistics showed those receiving the PRESTIGE Cervical Disc had superior outcomes in neurological success, as well as overall success.