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These are implants generally made of titanium and/or carbon fibre which are positioned between the two vertebrae to replace the damaged disc and allow maintenance of the space between the two vertebrae to avoid pressure onto the nerves.

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In most cases, these cages are inserted through the same incision used for the decompression of the nerve that is posteriorly. The cages are positioned parallel to each other and in order to secure their position in the long term, they are filled with bone from the patient, generally harvested from the hip and/or bone obtained from the vertebra which would act as a glue. If bone is required from the hip, this is harvested through the same midline incision and, therefore, no additional external scars are required. If cages are used, the Surgeon may advise the patient to wear a corset after the surgery for a period of up to six weeks.

This is generally worn part-time and may be used for only a few hours during the day.

Specific complications related to the use of the cage would include infection affecting the area where the cages have been inserted, displacement of the cages and nerve damage.

A review of over 100 patients, operated by Dr Osti between 1994 and 1996 with interbody cages for degenerative lumbar disc disease, had demonstrated that these could be safely inserted in the vast majority of patients with only a small number of complications, similar to conventional operations where no cages were employed.

The advantages of cages may be significant if a large quantity of disc material is removed. Each individual, however, is different and indications for different operations are discussed with the individual patient prior to the surgery. The cost of the implants is covered by health funds or insurance companies paying for the operation. These implants are left permanently and may be removed only if they are an obvious cause of disability.


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