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New Artificial Disc Surgery Giving Hope To People With Weakening Spines

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Surgeons around the country are now being trained to implant an artificial disc for people with weakening spines. One-third of people over the age of 40 suffer with degenerative disc disease, leaving them in pain and unable to function.

Standard treatment has been spinal fusion but now there's a new FDA-approved alternative.

Bending down to play with your dog seems like a simple task, but for Shay Gipson, it was once impossible.

"I was crying. I though I was having a heart attack," Gipson said.

Gipson had a herniated disk in her neck. Months of physical therapy didn't help.

"I started feeling hopeless in the sense of when is this gonna get better?" she said.

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Gipson was one of the first patients in the country to get an artificial cervical disc as part of a clinical trial.

"M6 is the first disc that has a compressible core and replicates motion of the human disc almost perfectly," said Dr. Todd Lanman, a spinal neurosurgeon at UCLA Medical Center.

The artificial disc is made of polycarbonate urethane -- a fancy plastic. Surgeons place two titanium plates on each bone and slip the artificial disc in between.

artificial disc
Credit: CBS3

Previously, patients would be treated with spinal fusion, which can cause more problems and the recovery is longer.

"Fusions take three months to heal, artificial disks take three to four weeks," Lanman said.

The M6-C artificial disc is now FDA approved.

"I feel like my life is back," Gipson said.

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Three years later, she says she's grateful to be pain free.

According to the FDA, a study of 152 patients with the new artificial disc shows an 86% overall success rate after two years.

It's currently available in Princeton and Lancaster. The company that makes the device says they're training new surgeons every day and it's expected to be more widely available soon.

You can find a surgeon near you here.

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