“We typically don’t pay a lot of attention to our neck as it rotates from side to side and back and forth hundreds of times each day” says Mark Stern, M.D., a board-certified neurosurgeon.

“But neck pain can interfere with the ability to enjoy activities or perform work tasks. Fortunately, Palomar Health offers comprehensive care including non-surgical therapies, as well as advanced, minimally invasive surgical procedures that restore function and relieve pain.”

When debilitating neck pain interfered with Fred Lerma’s job performance and quality of life, he met with Dr. Stern to discuss treatment options.

“My whole life was affected by neck pain- I couldn’t sleep…I couldn’t work effectively,” Fred says. “It didn’t go away with medication or physical therapy. Nothing helped until I saw Dr. Stern and he confirmed that I had a herniated cervical disc that could be corrected surgically.”
Dr. Stern carefully explained disc removal and fusion, but also told me he was participating in a clinical study to evaluate the effectiveness of cervical disc replacement,” Fred says. “I was immediately interested in this newer procedure because I understood that it doesn’t put added stress on the discs above and below in the way fusion does. That just seemed better to me for the long term.”

After talking with patients across the nation who had already had cervical disc replacement, Fred became convinced that this was the right procedure. He became the first patient at Palomar Medical Center to have cervical disc replacement in 2010.

“Cervical disc replacement has been performed for more than 30 years in France and England, and about 10 years in the United States,” Dr. Stern says. “Advancements in surgical technology and the biomaterials used for a permanent implant have made this procedure possible. While cervical disc implants are similar to replacement joints used in hip or knew replacement, they must be smaller and able to move in more directions over a lifetime.”

Cervical disc replacement is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that used fluoroscopy imaging to assure that the implant is accurately positioned and secured. Dr. Stern makes a small incision in the front of the neck and inserts small instruments that remove the damaged disc and file off bone spurs before shaping the area for accurate placement of the implant.

“I was home two days after the surgery and I noticed immediate pain relief,” Fred says. “My voice was hoarse for a while, but that was the only side effect from surgery.”

Fred returned to work as an ocular technician a week after surgery.

“I don’t have any pain and I can do all the things I enjoyed before, including, work, playing golf and kayaking,” Fred says. “I work in the medical field and know about great care. I tell everyone it’s important to do your research and find a surgeon who is experienced and who you can trust to do the best for you.”



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