The facet joints are the places where the vertebrae connect in the spine, Their purpose is to maintain the integrity of the spine by inhibiting mobility of the vertebrae during movement.
Some people experience facet related neck pain known as cervical facet arthroPATHY (not arthroPLASTY), while others experience pain in the low back known as lumbar facet arthropathy. It’s difficult to pinpoint the causes of pain developing at the facet joints, however osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis are two of the possible causes.
Traditional treatment for facet arthropathy involved overarching operations which removed vertebrae, cartilage, and osteophytes, which proved very inefficient at treating the problem.
Facet arthroplasty is an improved method of correcting issues related to facet joint pain and joint degeneration. An arthroplasty is a surgical technique where a portion of a joint is replaced. During facet arthroplasty the arthritic facet joints are replaced with a prosthesis, similar to a hip or knee arthroplasty. The procedure varies some between cervical and lumbar procedures, but the primary goal of both surgeries is to restore posterior structure and function.
Facet arthroplasty is a possible alternative to fusion surgery for patients suffering from osteoarthritis, spondylolisthesis, and spinal stenosis. Additionally, facet arthroplasty has proven very rewarding for those suffering from a degenerative disc disease, such as degenerative spondylolisthesis. Such diseases cause the breakdown of facets prior to discs, often resulting in slipped discs. Therefore, facet arthroplasty has the dual benefit of immediately relieving pain as well as strengthening the spine and preventing future injuries.
Post-op recovery time is typically minimal since bone healing is not required. By removing the diseased facets and replacing them with implants patients experience less pressure-related pain and better mobility and range of motion than with fusion surgery.