Object: Arthrodesis is the gold standard for surgical treatment of lumbar degenerative disc disease (DDD). Solid fusion, however, can cause stress and increased motion in the segments adjacent to the fused level. This may initiate and/or accelerate the adjacent-segment disease process. Artificial discs are designed to restore and maintain normal motion of the lumbar intervertebral segment. Restoring and maintaining normal motion of the segment reduces stresses and loads on adjacent level segments. A US Food and Drug Administration Investigational Device Exemptions multicentered study of the Charité artificial disc was completed. The control group consisted of individuals who underwent anterior lumbar interbody fusion involving BAK cages and iliac crest bone graft. This is the first report of Class I data in which a lumbar artificial disc is compared with lumbar fusion.
Methods: Of 304 individuals enrolled in the study, 205 were randomized to the Charité disc-treated group and 99 to the BAK fusion-treated (control) group. Neurological status was equivalent between the two groups at 6, 12, and 24 months postoperatively. The number of patients with major, minor, or other neurological complications was equivalent. There was a greater incidence of both major and minor complications in the BAK fusion group at 0 to 42 days postoperatively. Compared with data reported in the lumbar fusion literature, the Charité disc-treated patients had equivalent or better mean changes in visual analog scale and Oswestry Disability Index scores.
Conclusions: The Charité artificial disc is safe and effective for the treatment of single-level lumbar DDD, resulting in no higher incidence of neurological complications compared with BAK-assisted fusion and leading to equivalent or better outcomes compared with those obtained in the control group and those reported in the lumbar fusion literature.